How to care for the umbilical cord

The umbilical cord, which once supplied your baby with oxygen rich blood and nutrients is surplus to requirements once you have given birth.
Once the cord has been cut (clamped and snipped), your newborn will be left with a stump which is still connected to her navel (belly button). This stump of tissue needs to be cared for properly to avoid infection.

Keeping it clean

You should keep your newborns umbilical cord stump clean but also ensure it is kept dry and aired regularly. I personally recommend only top and tailing (avoiding baths) until the stump had fallen off.

  • Do not use rubbing alcohol or soaps to clean your baby’s umbilical stump unless you have been specifically instructed to by a GP or health visitor/midwife
  • Use clean warm water and some cotton wool balls
  • Gently rub the wet cotton wool ball around the stump, removing any dirt or grime
  • Dry the area by gently patting it, placing an absorbent cloth on it or by fanning it with a piece of paper
  • Day to day care

    There are four things you can do to help the stump fall off naturally whilst minimising the risk if infection.

  • Ensure the area is completely dry
  • Allow plenty of air to it
  • Fold your newborns nappy under the stump so it doesn’t aggravate it
  • Don’t be tempted to help it along its way if it looks ready to fall off – even if it appears to be hanging on by a single thread!
  • What are the signs of an infection?

    If your baby has an infection in this area, you will need to get it treated as soon as you can to prevent it from spreading.The signs of an infection are:

  • There is a discharge which is quite smelly
  • It continues to bleed/li>
  • There is yellow pus coming out if it
  • The surrounding area is red and appears swollen
  • Always contact your GP if you are not sure
  • There has been a lot if misleading information over the years, “Use rubbing alcohol”, “Don’t bathe them”, “Do bathe them” “Wash it at least once a day” etc. The general consensus seems to be, keep it clean and keep it dry and touch it as little as possible. If you do this, you can’t go far wrong.

    NHS Choices