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Newborn Basics

How To Care For The Umbilical Cord

Find out 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 of—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."

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