Caring for the umbilical cord

Essential information to rememberClean around the umbilical cord every day until it drops off and the belly button is healed. Don’t worry, this doesn’t hurt your baby.

The umbilical cord is white at birth, but darkens as it dries. It drops off by itself between the 5th and 21st day.

Gently clean around the umbilical cord (the folds) every day until it drops off and the belly button is healed.

Here are a few tips for cleaning the umbilical cord and keeping it dry:

  • Gently clean the area with a cotton swab (Q-Tips®) soaked in warm water. Don’t use alcohol because it delays the cord dropping off.
  • Dry with another cotton swab. Rub the cotton swab around the umbilical cord (in the folds). You won’t hurt your baby, and that way you make sure that the cord is properly dried.
  • Avoid covering the cord with the diaper or a compress. It must always stay dry. Fold the diaper under the belly button to prevent irritation.

Remember to dry around the cord after bathing your baby.

The cord may remain half attached for 2 to 3 days. Don’t try to pull it off. It can also leave traces of blood on your baby’s diaper or clothes. Once the cord has fallen off, a few drops of blood may flow from the scar. This isn’t dangerous; the belly button will heal on its own.

Talk to a health professional if

  • redness appears or becomes more intense
  • the belly button oozes fluid
  • the belly button smells bad
  • you have any other concerns