Taking care of the stump

Your baby's umbilical cord stump will change from bluish white to black as it dries out and eventually falls off — usually within three weeks after birth. In the meantime, treat the area gently:

  • Keep the stump clean. Parents were once instructed to swab the stump with rubbing alcohol after every diaper change. Researchers now say the stump might heal faster if left alone. If the stump becomes dirty or sticky, clean it with plain water — then dry it by holding a clean, absorbent cloth around the stump or fanning it with a piece of paper.
  • Keep the stump dry. Expose the stump to air to help dry out the base. Keep the front of your baby's diaper folded down to avoid covering the stump. In warm weather, dress your baby in a diaper and T-shirt to improve air circulation.
  • Stick with sponge baths. Sponge baths might be most practical during the healing process. When the stump falls off, you can bathe your baby in a baby tub or sink.
  • Let the stump fall off on its own. Resist the temptation to pull off the stump yourself.

Signs of infection

During the healing process, it's normal to see a little blood near the stump. Much like a scab, when the cord stump falls off, a little bleeding might occur. However, contact your baby's doctor if the umbilical area ooze pus or the surrounding skin becomes red and swollen. If your baby has an umbilical cord infection, prompt treatment is needed to stop the infection from spreading.

Feb. 19, 2015 See more In-depth