A Guide to Umbilical Cord Care: What Parents Should Know

A Guide to Umbilical Cord Care: What Parents Should Know

Welcoming a new baby into the world is an exciting and joyful experience. As a new parent, you want to do everything you can to ensure your baby's health and well-being. A critical aspect of caring for your newborn is properly caring for their umbilical cord. In this blog post, we will provide you with essential tips on caring for your baby's umbilical cord and signs of infection to watch out for. We have also enlisted the help of experts in the field to provide you with their advice on umbilical cord care.


What is an Umbilical Cord?

The umbilical cord is a lifeline between the mother and the baby during pregnancy, providing oxygen and nutrients to the developing fetus and removing waste products. After birth, the cord is clamped and cut, leaving a small stump on the baby's belly. This stump typically falls off within a few weeks but requires careful attention to ensure proper healing.


How to Care for Umbilical Cord: at-Home 


Keeping It Clean and Dry

Proper umbilical cord care at home involves keeping the stump clean and dry. Avoid submerging your baby in water until the stump falls off. Instead, give your newborn sponge baths, ensuring that the area around the stump is gently patted dry.


Use of Alcohol Wipes

Some pediatricians recommend using alcohol wipes to clean the stump, while others suggest drying it. Follow your healthcare provider's advice. If using alcohol wipes, gently clean the stump's base once or twice a day.


Clothing and Diaper Tips

Fold your baby's diaper below the stump to prevent irritation and to allow air circulation. This can help the stump dry out and fall off faster. Dress your baby in loose-fitting clothes to avoid rubbing against the stump.


What to Avoid


  • Avoiding Infections: Unless your healthcare provider advises, do not apply lotions, powders, or ointments to the umbilical cord stump. These substances can trap moisture and increase the risk of infection.
  • Steering Clear of Tugging: Resist the temptation to pull or tug on the stump, even if it looks like it's about to fall off. Let the stump fall off naturally to avoid causing bleeding or infection


Signs of Normal Healing


Umbilical Cord Healing

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Typical Healing Process

During the healing process, the umbilical cord stump may change color from yellowish-green to brown or black as it dries out and eventually falls off. A small amount of dried blood or a mild odor is average.


Monitoring for Red Flags

Typical healing signs include slight bleeding when the stump falls off and the area turning a lighter pink as it heals. However, watch for any signs of infection or complications.


Complications Linked to the Umbilical Cord Stump


Umbilical Granuloma

An umbilical granuloma is a small tissue growth that may form on the navel after the stump falls off. It looks like a small, pinkish-red lump and may be moist. While it is usually not painful, it can be treated by your healthcare provider to prevent infection.



Omphalitis is an infection occurring around the umbilical cord stump. Symptoms may include sensitivity, bleeding or discharge from the navel, irritability, and fever. Treatment typically involves antibiotics to resolve the infection.


Umbilical Hernia

An umbilical hernia occurs when part of the intestine protrudes through the abdominal muscles near the belly button. This condition is usually not severe and often resolves independently by age 1 or 2. However, in some cases, medical intervention may be necessary.


Warning Signs and When to Seek Medical Advice


Infection in Umbilical Cord

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While most umbilical cords heal without any issues, it's essential to be aware of warning signs that may indicate a problem. Seek medical advice if you notice any of the following:


  • Redness, swelling, or warmth around the stump
  • Pus or foul-smelling discharge
  • Excessive bleeding
  • A fever in your newborn


Common Misconceptions About Umbilical Cord Care

Several misconceptions surrounding umbilical cord care can confuse new and expectant parents. One common misconception is that you should apply alcohol or other disinfectants to the umbilical cord stump. However, experts recommend against this practice, as it can slow down the healing process and increase the risk of infection.


Another common misconception is that you should pull off the umbilical cord stump once it has dried up. This can also be harmful, as it can cause bleeding and increase the risk of infection. It is best to let the umbilical cord stump fall off independently, usually within 1-2 weeks after birth.


What Should My Baby Wear Before the Stump Falls Off?

Before the umbilical cord stump falls off, it's essential to dress your baby in a way that keeps the area clean and dry. For diapers, fold the top of the diaper below the stump to prevent irritation and allow air circulation. Some newborn diapers are designed with a cut-out area for the umbilical stump. When it comes to clothing, opt for loose-fitting and comfortable outfits that don't press against the stump. Onesies and soft cotton clothes are ideal choices.


Avoid tight waistbands or any clothing that can rub against the stump. If you swaddle your newborn baby, ensure that the swaddle is not too tight around the waist and abdomen, allowing the stump to breathe and stay dry.


Is It Okay to Do Tummy Time with the Umbilical Stump?

Yes, it is generally okay to do tummy time with the umbilical stump, but there are some precautions to remember. Always supervise tummy time to ensure your baby is comfortable and safe. Start with short tummy time sessions, gradually increasing the duration as your baby gets used to it. This helps avoid putting too much pressure on the stump.


Place your baby on a soft, clean surface like a blanket or a play mat. This provides a comfortable area for your baby to practice lifting their head and strengthens their neck and shoulder muscles. If your baby seems uncomfortable or fussy during tummy time, give them a break and try again later. Ensure the umbilical stump is not pressed or irritated during these sessions. By following these tummy time guidelines, you can safely include tummy time in your baby's routine, promoting their physical development while taking care of the umbilical stump.


Can I Massage a newborn with an Umbilical Stump?

Massaging a newborn with an umbilical cord stump is generally safe, but you must be careful to avoid the stump area. Here are some tips:


  • Avoid the Stump: Keep the umbilical cord stump dry and untouched when massaging your newborn. Focus on other areas, such as the baby's arms, legs, back, and head.
  • Gentle Strokes: Use gentle, soothing strokes and avoid applying pressure near the umbilical cord stump.
  • Check for Discomfort: Watch for any signs of discomfort or distress from your baby. If they seem uncomfortable, stop the massage and try again later.
  • Clean and Dry: Ensure the stump remains clean and dry throughout the massage. Avoid using oils or lotions near the umbilical area until the stump has healed and fallen off.


Following these guidelines, you can safely massage your newborn while ensuring the umbilical cord stump heals appropriately.


Suggested Read: Discover the Importance of Baby Massage and How to Do It Successfully



Caring for your baby's umbilical cord is an essential aspect of newborn care that should not be overlooked. By following the tips in this blog post and monitoring for signs of infection, you can ensure that your baby's umbilical cord heals appropriately and without any complications. Always consult your pediatrician for any concerns or questions about umbilical cord care. Your baby's health and well-being are our top priority, so stay informed and proactive in caring for their umbilical cord.

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