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Umbilical cord care in newborns

Alternative Names

Cord - umbilical

Information

When your baby is born the umbilical cord is cut and there is a stump left. The stump should dry and fall off by the time your baby is 5 to 15 days old. Keep the stump clean with gauze and water only. Sponge bathe the rest of your baby, as well. Do not put your baby in a tub of water until the stump has fallen off.

Let the stump fall off naturally. Do not try to pull it off, even if it is only hanging on by a thread.

Watch the umbilical cord stump for infection. This does not occur often. But if it does, the infection can spread quickly.

Signs of a local infection at the stump include:

  • Foul-smelling, yellow drainage from the stump
  • Redness, swelling, or tenderness of the skin around the stump

Be aware of signs of a more serious infection. Contact your baby's doctor immediately if your baby has:

  • Poor feeding
  • Fever of 100.4 °F or higher
  • Lethargy
  • Floppy, poor muscle tone

If the cord stump is pulled off too soon, it could start actively bleeding, meaning every time you wipe away a drop of blood, another drop appears. If the cord stump continues to bleed, call your baby's doctor immediately.

Sometimes, instead of completely drying, the cord will form pink scar tissue called a granuloma. The granuloma drains a light-yellowish fluid. This will usually go away in about a week. If it does not, call your baby's doctor.

If your baby's stump has not fallen off in 4 weeks, call you baby's doctor. There may be a problem with the baby's anatomy or immune system.

References

Carlo WA. The umbilicus. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, PA: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 99.


Review Date: 12/4/2013
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Bethanne Black, and the A.D.A.M. Editorial team.
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