The do’s and don’ts of caring for baby’s umbilical cord

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For brand new parents, newborn life can come with a steep learning curve. All of a sudden, you’re studying the contents of a diaper, warming bottles on your wrist, and trying every aerobic move possible to soothe your screaming baby. It’s likely a far cry from your life before your little one arrived. And we get it, new babies are tough. Let us help demystify those first few days at home. Let’s start with caring for the umbilical cord.

What is it?

Throughout your pregnancy, baby received oxygen and nutrients through his or her umbilical cord. Once born, there’s no need for it, so your health care team will clamp it down and snip it off, sending your little one home with an umbilical cord stump. It will take 7-10 days to heal and fall off on its own. In the meantime, you’ll be advised to treat it gently and ensure it’s kept clean.

How to care for it

DON’T wash it: In years past, new parents were instructed to swab baby’s umbilical cord stump with rubbing alcohol multiple times each day. Now, to speed healing, medical experts advise largely leaving it alone. If the area becomes soiled and it’s necessary to clean it, wipe the stump with plain water and dry thoroughly by fanning it and leaving it exposed to air.  

DO fold the diaper: Make sure baby’s diaper isn’t rubbing against his or her stump. Many diaper brands made for newborns have a lower cut in the front to accommodate this temporary appendage. However, if the diaper rides up higher than intended, an easy solution is to fold the front side down slightly before securing it shut.

DON’T bathe baby: Hold off on baby’s first bath until his or her stump has fallen off. You want to keep it dry to help ward off infection. If your little one is in dire need of a clean-up, stick to a sponge bath for now.

DON’T tug: Have faith that your newborn’s stump will indeed fall off on its own. Don’t attempt to speed the process along by pulling it off. Doing so may cause your little one some discomfort and help introduce infection.

DO look for signs of trouble: A spot of blood near the stump site is perfectly normal – especially after it’s fallen off. What you should be wary of is heavy bleeding, redness, or pus. These are all signs you should call baby’s pediatrician.

Read more: Diaper 101. What’s normal for a newborn and what’s cause for concern

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