Umbilical cord care refers to the process of keeping the newborn’s remaining umbilical cord stump clean and dry after birth, to promote healing and prevent infection. This involves regular cleansing with a clean cloth and water, followed by air-drying, until the stump falls off naturally. Parents must also avoid submerging the baby in a bathtub or using alcohol or other disinfectants on the stump, unless instructed by a healthcare professional to do so.

Key Takeaways

  1. Umbilical cord care involves keeping the newborn’s umbilical cord stump clean and dry to prevent infection and promote healing.
  2. Parents should clean the stump gently using a sterile cotton swab and allow it to air dry; keeping the diaper folded down can help with this.
  3. The umbilical cord stump usually falls off within 1-4 weeks after birth, signaling proper healing; if there are signs of infection or delay in this process, it is essential to consult a healthcare professional.


Umbilical cord care is an essential aspect of parenting, particularly during a newborn’s first few weeks of life.

The term emphasizes the importance of proper care and hygiene practices surrounding the baby’s leftover umbilical cord stump, which is the point of connection between the mother and baby during pregnancy.

Maintaining appropriate care for the stump, which includes keeping it clean and dry, can prevent infection, promote the healing process, and result in a healthy navel for the infant.

Moreover, it encourages parents to be mindful of their baby’s overall health and well-being during this crucial developmental period, while fostering a sense of attentiveness and responsibility towards their child’s needs.


Umbilical cord care is an essential aspect of early infant care that encompasses the proper cleaning, monitoring, and management of an infant’s umbilical cord stump following birth. The purpose of umbilical cord care is to promote healthy healing, prevent infection, and facilitate the natural detachment of the umbilical cord stump from the baby’s navel. The umbilical cord is a vital lifeline during pregnancy, connecting the baby to the mother’s placenta for the exchange of oxygen, nutrients, and waste products.

After birth, the umbilical cord is no longer needed and is clamped and cut, leaving a small stump on the newborn’s belly button, which usually takes 1-4 weeks to dry up, turn black, and fall off naturally. To ensure proper hygiene and prevent complications, parents and caregivers should follow the recommended practices for umbilical cord care. These include keeping the area clean and dry, avoiding submerging the baby in water during baths, folding diaper corners down to expose the stump, and avoiding tight clothing that may cause irritation.

By maintaining a clean and dry environment around the umbilical cord stump, the risk of infection, inflammation, or abnormal healing can be significantly reduced. Parents should also monitor the stump for any indications of foul odor, redness, swelling, pus, or bleeding, which could signify an infection and necessitate medical attention. By adhering to proper umbilical cord care practices, the wellbeing of a newborn can be fostered, ensuring a smooth transition into postnatal life.

Examples of Umbilical Cord Care

The Newborn Bathing Technique: In many cultures, including in the U.S., parents carefully bathe their newborn babies while taking special care to keep the umbilical cord stump clean and dry. This involves using a sponge or washcloth to clean around the cord stump and ensuring it stays out of the water during bath time until the stump falls off on its own, usually within 1-2 weeks after birth.

Applying Alcohol Swabs or Antibacterial Cream: In some countries, healthcare providers recommend parents to gently clean the umbilical cord stump with a cotton swab dipped in alcohol or an antibacterial cream to prevent infection. This is typically done a couple of times a day, especially after diaper changes, until the stump dries up and falls off.

The Lotus Birth Practice: In a lotus birth, parents choose not to cut the umbilical cord after childbirth and instead leave it attached to the placenta until it naturally falls off. This non-medical, natural approach to umbilical cord care is practiced by a small number of families who believe that this method promotes a strong bond between the baby and the placenta, which is seen as an extension of the child. However, this practice is not widely recommended by medical professionals due to potential risks of infection and other complications.

Umbilical Cord Care FAQ

1. What is the purpose of the umbilical cord?

The umbilical cord is a vital connection between your baby and the placenta during pregnancy. It provides oxygen and nutrients to your baby while removing waste products from their body.

2. How do I properly care for my baby’s umbilical cord?

Keep the area around the umbilical cord stump dry and clean. Fold the front of the diaper down to expose the area, and avoid covering the stump with tight clothing. Clean it gently with a cotton swab dipped in water whenever it appears dirty or has discharge.

3. When can I expect the umbilical cord stump to fall off?

Typically, the umbilical cord stump will fall off on its own within 1 to 3 weeks after birth. Some may take a little longer, but if you’re concerned, consult your pediatrician.

4. Is it normal for the umbilical cord stump to bleed or have discharge?

It’s normal for the umbilical cord stump to have a small amount of bleeding or discharge before it falls off. However, if there is heavy bleeding, foul-smelling discharge, or signs of infection, consult your pediatrician immediately.

5. How do I prevent infection in my baby’s umbilical cord?

To prevent infection, keep the umbilical cord stump clean and dry. Avoid submerging it in water until it falls off, and practice proper hygiene when changing diapers or handling the baby. Watch for signs of infection, such as redness, swelling, or foul-smelling discharge.

6. Can I give my baby a bath while the umbilical cord is still attached?

It’s best to avoid submerging the umbilical cord stump in water until it has fallen off. Instead, give your baby sponge baths to clean them until the stump has detached.

7. What should I do if I accidentally pull on the umbilical cord?

If you accidentally pull on the umbilical cord, don’t panic. Gently release the cord, and keep an eye on the area for any bleeding or signs of infection. Consult your pediatrician if you have concerns.

Related Parenting Terms

  • Cord clamping
  • Alcohol swabbing
  • Hygiene practices
  • Cord stump drying
  • Signs of infection

Sources for More Information