Springdale Mason Pediatrics

Umbilical Cord - Minor Infection of Cord or Navel


  • Umbilicus (navel) has a cloudy discharge or even some dried pus on the surface
  • 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 the belly button
  • Fever occurs
  • Cloudy discharge not gone after 3 days of using this care advice
  • Your baby starts to look or act abnormal
  • You think your baby needs to be seen

About This Topic


  • A cloudy discharge usually is from an infection on top of the skin.
  • This can be caused by normal skin bacteria.
  • A small amount of pus may even be present.

Omphalitis: Serious Complication

  • Definition. Bacterial infection of the umbilical stump with spread to the skin around it. It’s a medical emergency.
  • How Often. 1 out of 200 newborns.
  • Symptoms. Redness spreads around the navel. The area may be tender, swollen and have a foul odor.

After Care Advice

  • The belly button will ooze secretions for several days after the cord falls off.
  • Normal secretions are clear or blood tinged mucus.
  • A cloudy discharge is usually a mild infection.
  • This can be from normal skin bacteria.
  • A small amount of pus may be present.
  • Here is some care advice that should help.
Clean the Navel:
  • Clean the navel (belly button) 2 times a day.
  • Use a wet cotton swab or cloth.
  • Clean away any dried secretions or pus.
  • Do this gently to prevent any bleeding.
  • Caution: Don't use any rubbing alcohol. Reason: Can interfere with healing.
Antibiotic Ointment:
  • If any pus is present, use an antibiotic ointment such as Polysporin.
  • No prescription is needed.
  • Put a tiny amount on the navel.
  • Do this 2 times per day after the area has been cleaned with warm water.
  • Do this for 2 days. After that, use the antibiotic ointment only if you see more pus.
  • Do not use tub baths until the cord falls off. Also the navel should be well healed.
  • Keep the belly button dry to help healing.
  • To provide air contact, keep the diaper folded down. Keep it below the cord and belly button.
What to Expect:
  • With treatment, the cloudy discharge and pus should be gone in 2 to 3 days.
  • The navel should become dry and healed by 7 days.

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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