Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Umbilical Cord - Delayed Separation Past 3 Weeks


  • Cord is still attached after 3 weeks
  • 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

  • Cord starts to look infected
  • Fever occurs
  • Cord is still on for more than 6 weeks
  • Your baby starts to look sick or act abnormal
  • You think your child 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

  • Most cords fall off between 10 and 14 days. Normal range is 7 to 21 days.
  • All cords slowly fall off on their own.
  • Keep being patient.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Stop Alcohol:
  • If you have been using rubbing alcohol to the cord, stop doing so.
  • Rubbing alcohol can kill the good bacteria that help the cord fall off.
  • Help the cord dry up faster by keeping the diaper folded below it.
  • Option: Cut out a wedge of the disposable diaper. Then seal the edge with tape.
  • Air contact helps the cord stay dry.

Author: Barton Schmitt MD, FAAP
Copyright 2000-2021 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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