Mother and Baby

How to care for your baby’s umbilical cord stump

Your baby’s cord stump will need a little attention after birth, but caring for it is very straightforward

Once your baby is born, his umbilical cord will be clamped and then cut – either by your birth partner or the midwife or doctor. What will be left is 3-4cm of umbilical cord with a clip on the end.

‘The clip will stay on for two or three days and will then be removed by your midwife,’ says health visitor Penny Lazell ( Once this is removed, the remaining cord will gradually dry up, turn black and then fall off, which takes about 7-10 days. The scar that remains is what becomes your baby’s belly button.

How can I care for my baby’s umbilical stump?

Newborns don’t really need many baths in the first week or two, and you can usually keep him clean by just doing a top and tail clean. ‘However, if you do get the stump wet or decide to give him a bath, that’s fine, so long as you use plain water,’ says Penny. ‘Avoid using an baby soaps, creams or powders and just pat the area dry afterwards.’


If you get poo or wee on the umbilical cord stump, make sure you wash it gently with cooled boiled water.

‘Many newborn nappies have a special semi-circle cut out of the front waistband so that it doesn’t rub on the umbilical cord stump, but if it doesn’t, or you’re using reusable nappies, just fold the waistband over,’ says Penny.

Make sure you wash your hands before touching your baby’s belly button, especially if you’re just about to or have just done a nappy change.


The healing process

Your baby’s umbilical stump will fall off about 7-10 days, but it’s important that you don’t pick or try and pull the stump off yourself. You need to let it fall off naturally.

Even after your baby’s stump has fallen off, the belly button is still healing, and may look a little pink for a couple of weeks. ‘But for some babies, their healing process is too fast, which means the stump may take on a red, shiny, slightly weepy appearance and develop a small lump,’ says Penny. This is known as umbilical granuloma. It can be treated by your GP using a special stick with a chemical called silver nitrate on which seals the wound and helps the area to dry up and heal.

Belly button infections during the healing process can happen. ‘Signs to look out for include redness, pink-ish pus and a strange odour,’ says Penny. ‘If you spot this, talk to your GP or health visitor about best treatment. He may prescribe antibiotics or an antibiotic cream.’


‘Inny’ vs ‘outy’ belly button - can you decide?

The way your baby’s cord is cut or heals has no bearing on whether your baby has a naval that sticks out or not, and you can’t really change how it ends up.

‘However, some babies may have quite protruding ‘outy’ belly buttons caused by an umbilical hernia – a bulge around the belly button,’ says Penny. ‘This is because your baby’s abdominal muscles are quite weak which means stomach wall tissue can push out between the muscles around the belly button area. Luckily, umbilical hernia often disappear by the time your baby is 12 to 18 months old.’

Has your baby got an inny or an outy? Let us know in the comment box below.


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