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Best Tips To Take Care of Your Newborn's Umbilical Cord

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University Hospitals Rainbow Babies & Children'sExperts in Children's Health
newborn lying on its back wearing diaper

When your newborn comes home from the hospital, she or he will likely have part of the umbilical cord still attached. You’ll need to take a few minor precautions with the umbilical cord to keep it dry and infection-free for a couple of weeks until it detaches on its own.

Shortly after birth, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut close to the navel, says Elana Richter, CPNP, CLC, a pediatric nurse practitioner with UH Rainbow Lorain Pediatrics.

“The clamp helps stop bleeding from the blood vessels in the umbilical cord after it is cut," Richter says. "Occasionally, some medicines are applied to the cord as part of a baby’s first care. But from then on, it's advised to keep the cord dry.” 

By the time your baby goes home from the hospital, the cord will be starting to dry and wither. The clamp can be removed when the cord is completely dry.

“The cord usually falls off by itself in about one to two weeks, although in some babies it takes longer,” Richter says. “Because the umbilical cord can be a place for infection to enter the baby’s body, it’s very important to care for it properly until it does fall off.”

How To Take Care of Your Baby's Umbilical Cord

Your baby’s healthcare provider will give you instructions on how to care for your newborn’s umbilical cord. Richter says these instructions typically include:

  • Keeping it dry
  • Exposing it to air
  • Making sure to keep the cord dry when giving your baby sponge baths until the cord falls off
  • Letting your healthcare provider know if the cord has not fallen off by three to four weeks of life

In addition, Richter says you should fold the baby's diaper down so the cord is not covered by it. This helps ensure the cord stays dry and helps reduce the chances that the cord will get dirty with urine or stool.

Call your baby's healthcare provider if you notice:

  • Bleeding from the end of the cord or the area near the skin
  • Moisture, an unusual odor or discharge from the cord
  • Swelling or redness of the skin around the navel
  • Signs that the navel area is painful to your baby

For parents who may be getting anxious about when their baby’s cord will fall off, Richter offers an important reminder: “Don’t try to remove the cord yourself. Just give it time, it will fall off on its own.”

When the cord does fall off, “there may be a small amount of blood, which is normal,” Richter says. “However, if you are ever worried or have questions, please call your baby’s healthcare provider for guidance.”

RELATED LINKS

University Hospitals Rainbow Care Network’s pediatric practices offer a variety of medical services for children of all ages – from newborns to young adults. Our extensive network provides convenient access to pediatric healthcare services at locations throughout Northeast Ohio. Find a pediatric practice near you.

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