Newborn Basics

Q&A: How Do I Care For The Umbilical Cord?

What's the best way to take care of the umbilical cord after birth?

"Umbilical cord care has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, with a less-is-more attitude adopted by most hospitals," says Paula Prezioso, MD, a doctor at Pediatric Associates of New York City and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the NYU Medical School. "Originally, a triple dye solution was painted onto the cord at birth, which dried it quickly and allowed it to fall off within a week. This was replaced with the equally effective (and less staining) alcohol, which dried the cord in a week or two." 

Now, many hospitals recommend doing nothing but keeping the cord dry. "The one problem is babies can’t take a real bath until the cord is off and healed — sponge baths are okay as long as the cord is kept dry," Prezioso says. "The problem with this is it may take up to a month for the cord to fall off — a long time not to bathe baby! That’s why I personally recommend using alcohol on the cord with each diaper change to see a complete healing in less than two weeks."

Plus, more from The Bump:

What's Cord Blood Banking?

Best Baby Bath Tubs

Bath Supplies for a Newborn

By Dr. Paula Prezioso, MD, is in private practice at Pediatric Associates of New York City and is an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the NYU Medical School.