Caring for Your Newborn Umbilical Cord

The birth of a child involves three stages:

  • First stage which begins from the onset of true labour and lasts until the cervix is completely dilated to 10 cm. 
  • Second stage which continues after the cervix is dilated to 10 cm until the delivery of the baby. 
  • The third stage which is the delivery of the placenta. The average time from delivery of the baby until complete expulsion of the placenta is estimated to be 10–12 minutes.

See more on stages of labor here.

The baby is attached to the placenta via the umbilical cord. Throughout a pregnancy, the umbilical cord carries important nutrients and blood from the mother to the baby. After birth, a clamp is put on the cord and it is cut so that the baby is no longer attached to the placenta, which leaves an umbilical stump attached to the baby’s belly.

Caring for The Umbilical Cord

The stump usually dries up and drops off in about 7 to 21 days, leaving a small wound that may take a few days to heal.

At this stage, mothers are advised to be extra cautious and exercise high standards of hygiene as they take care of the baby to ensure that the cord heals fast and well.

Until the baby’s umbilical cord stump falls off it is important to:

  • Keep it clean and dry. You can dress the baby in loose clothes to ensure that they don’t touch the skin area around the cord so that it does not hurt them.
  • Fold your baby’s diaper away from the stump to expose it to air and prevent contact with urine.
  • During the first few days, you can sponge bath your baby gently until the cord completely heals.
  • If the weather is warm, have your baby wear just a diaper and loose T-shirt to let air circulate and speed the drying process.
  • It is important to let the stump fall off on its own. Do not attempt to pull it even if it hangs loosely.

Signs that Your Baby’s Cord Is Infected

During the healing process, it is normal to see a little blood near the stump. 

However, in case of any of these signs, it is important to consult the doctor to avert the danger of an infection:

  • If the umbilical area oozes pus
  • The surrounding skin becomes red and swollen
  • The baby cries when you touch the cord or the skin next to it.

It is also important to consult your baby’s pediatrician if the stump still hasn’t separated after three weeks as this could be a sign of an underlying problem such as an infection or immune system disorder.


Please note that development differs from one child to another. 

Content intended for educational purposes only, and not a substitute for medical advice from your doctor.

Be careful when using any products mentioned on this website. We hold no regulations for such products or their providers.

Last reviewed March 2019 

Sources: babycenter, mayoclinic, rcm, todaysparent

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