A newborn's umbilical cord stump typically falls off within about two weeks after birth. In the meantime, treat your baby's umbilical cord stump gently.

By Mayo Clinic Staff

Wonder how to care for your newborn's umbilical cord stump? Follow these tips to promote healing.

During pregnancy, the umbilical cord supplies nutrients and oxygen to your developing baby. After birth, the umbilical cord is no longer needed — so it's clamped and snipped. This leaves behind a short 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.

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