When Does a Newborn’s Umbilical Cord Fall Off?

Bringing a newborn home is exciting, but let’s be real – it can be a bit scary too.  There are several things that you need to take care of and one of them is the umbilical cord.

After the umbilical cord is cut at birth, a stump of tissue remains attached to your baby’s belly button (navel). The umbilical cord gradually dries up until it falls off, usually 1 to 2 weeks after birth (but sometimes it can take longer). It is important that you keep the umbilical cord and surrounding skin clean and dry. Doing this helps prevent infection. It may also help the umbilical cord stump to fall off and the navel to heal more quickly.

How to clean newborn umbilical cord

You can help your baby’s umbilical cord fall off and heal faster by keeping it dry.  Keep your baby’s diaper folded below the umbilical cord stump. You want to make sure the cord is open to air.

Give your baby a sponge bath to keep the cord dry. Most bathtubs, like this one are sloped. This helps you position your baby upright and helps you keep the umbilical cord from getting wet.

What a normal umbilical cord looks like

Most umbilical cord stumps look worse than they really are. Right after birth, an umbilical cord usually looks white and shiny and may feel slightly damp. As it dries and heals, it may look brown, grey, or even black. This is totally normal. Usually no problems will develop as long as you keep the area clean and dry.

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You may notice a red, raw-looking spot right after the stump falls off. A small amount of fluid sometimes tinged with blood may ooze out of the navel area. It is normal for this to last up to 2 weeks after the stump falls off. If it doesn’t heal or dry completely within 2 weeks, call your doctor or nurse call line.

When to call a doctor

Call your baby’s doctor if you see any signs of an infection. These signs include:

  • Pus (yellowish fluid) that is around the base of the cord and smells bad.
  • Red, tender skin around the base of the cord.
  • Your baby crying when you touch the cord or the skin around it.
  •  Fever .

Also call your baby’s doctor if you notice any other problems with the umbilical cord area, such as:

  • A moist, red lump on your baby’s navel that lasts for more than 2 weeks after the umbilical cord has fallen off. This may be a piece of extra tissue called an umbilical granuloma. Your baby’s doctor can treat this minor problem.
  • Bulging tissue around the navel, usually noticed after the umbilical cord falls off. This may be an  umbilical hernia , which usually goes away on its own. But it should be watched by a doctor.

Information within this article is not to be taken as medical advice. Always consult with your baby’s doctor.

Source: Alberta