Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Umbilical Cord - Cord Care

Definition

  • Questions about how to care for the normal umbilical cord or navel in newborns
  • The navel is also called the belly button or umbilicus
  • The piece of cord that stays on the baby is called the umbilical stump

 

Call or Return If

  • Develops a red streak or redness around belly button
  • Fever occurs
  • Your baby starts to look or act abnormal
  • You think your baby needs to be seen

About This Topic

Normal Cord

  • Normal cords don't need any special treatment.
  • Just keep them dry (called natural drying).
  • Reason: Cords need to dry up, before they will fall off.
  • As they dry up, cords normally change color. They go from a shiny yellowish hue, to brown or gray.
  • The cord will normally fall off between 1 and 3 weeks.

Normal Navel (Belly Button)

  • After the cord has fallen off, the navel will gradually heal.
  • It's normal for the center to look red at the point of separation.
  • It's not normal if the redness spreads on to the belly.
  • It's normal for the navel to ooze some secretions.
  • Sometimes, the navel forms a scab. It heals up and falls off on its own.

 

After Care Advice

Overview:
  • Normal cords don't need any special treatment.
  • Just keep them dry (called dry cord care or natural drying).
  • Reason: Cords need to dry up, before they will fall off.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Normal Dry Cord Care:
  • If there are any secretions, clean them away. Use a wet cotton swab. Then, dry carefully.
  • You will need to push down on the skin around the cord to get at this area. You may also need to bend the cord a little to get underneath it.
  • Caution: Don't put alcohol or other germ killer on the cord. Reason: Dry cords fall off sooner. (Exception: Instructed by your doctor to use rubbing alcohol).
Bathing:
  • Keep the cord dry. Avoid tub baths.
  • Use sponge baths until the cord falls off.
Diapers:
  • Keep the area dry to help healing.
  • To provide air contact, keep the diaper folded down below the cord.
  • Another option for disposable diapers is to cut off a wedge with a scissors. Then seal the edge with tape.
Poop on Cord:
  • Getting some poop on the cord or navel is not serious.
  • If it occurs, clean the area with soap and water.
  • This should prevent any infections.
What to Expect:
  • As they dry up, cords normally change color. They go from a shiny yellowish hue, to brown or gray.
  • The average cord falls off between 10 and 14 days. Normal range is 7 to 21 days. The cord can't fall off too early.
  • After the cord has fallen off, the navel will gradually heal.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2020 Schmitt Pediatric Guidelines LLC
Disclaimer: This health information is for educational purposes only. You the reader assume full responsibility for how you choose to use it.
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