How Best To Care For Your Baby’s Umbilical Cord

At Westchester Health, parents of a newborn (especially if it’s their first child) often come to us wanting to know how to take care of their baby’s umbilical cord. While proper cord care is not very hard or involved, there are several do’s and don’ts to follow, which are explained in the following blog by Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP, a pediatrician with our Westchester Health Pediatrics group (excerpted below).

Best ways to care for your baby’s umbilical cord

Lauren Adler, MD, FAAP

In years past, pediatricians would recommend cleaning the base of the cord with rubbing alcohol. However, it is now known that this can irritate a baby’s skin and delay the healing, so it is no longer suggested. Instead, parents shoould follow these six guidelines for cord care:

  1. Keep the stump dry. The base of the umbilical cord needs to dry out. For this to happen, it needs to be exposed to air as often as possible, which will also speed up the healing process. If you can, dress your baby in a t-shirt and diaper to allow the cord to dry.
  2. Keep it clean. If the umbilical cord stump looks dirty or sticky, gently dab it with a wet washcloth (no soap or alcohol), then pat it dry with a dry cloth.
  3. Only give your baby sponge baths. Do not immerse your baby in a full-body water bath until after the umbilical cord has fallen off. If the stump gets very wet, lightly pat and then fan the area to dry it completely. Do not rub it drythis could cause irritation.
  4. Avoid covering the stump with a diaper. Many newborn-size disposable diapers now have a little notch cut out at the waistband. Another option is to fold down the front of a regular newborn diaper so that it’s not covering and rubbing against the stump. Also, change wet and dirty diapers as soon as possible so they don’t leak upward toward the navel.
  5. Dress your baby loosely. We recommend loose-fitting clothing that doesn’t press against the stump, like a loose onesie or a t-shirt.
  6. Let the stump fall off on its own. Resist the temptation to pull off the stump yourself, even if it seems to be connected by only a small thread. If it does get unattached too soon, this could cause bleeding. (If this happens, call your pediatrician immediately.)

Signs of infection to look for

  • Red, swollen appearance
  • A fluid-filled lump on or near your baby’s umbilical cord stump
  • Oozing pus or any foul-smelling discharge
  • Bleeding from the scab (though a little dried blood is normal)
  • Fever
  • Lethargy, low appetite, irritability
  • Abdominal swelling

After the stump drops off

When your baby’s umbilical cord stump eventually does fall off, you might notice a small raw spot or small amount of blood-tinged fluid oozing out. This is nothing to worry about. Most cords dry completely and then fall off. See your pediatrician if the stump hasn’t fallen off after four weeks.

Helpful articles you might want to read:

Want to know more about umbilical cord care? Come see us.

If you’d like more information about the proper way to take care of your baby’s umbilical cord, or have questions about any aspect of caring for your newborn, please call (914) 232-1919 to make an appointment with one of our Westchester Health pediatricians. Our #1 goal is to help you raise a happy, healthy child and for you to feel confident as a parent. Whenever, wherever you need us, we’re here for you.

To read Dr. Adler’s blog in full, click here.

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