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How to Care for Baby's Umbilical Cord

Find out the best way to take care of the umbilical cord after birth.
ByPaula Prezioso, MD
Pediatrician
Updated
May 2017

Umbilical cord care has changed dramatically over the last 20 years, with a less-is-more attitude now being adopted by most hospitals.

“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. That was then replaced with the equally effective (and less staining) alcohol, which dried the cord in a week or two,” says Paula Prezioso, MD, a doctor at Pediatric Associates of New York City and an Assistant Professor of Pediatrics at the NYU Medical School.

Today, many hospitals recommend doing nothing but keeping the cord dry. While swabbing the cord stump with alcohol after diaper changes was previously thought to speed up the healing process, researchers now say it’ll mend faster if you just leave it alone, according to the Mayo Clinic.

Here are some simple tips to caring for baby’s umbilical cord stump:

Keep the stump dry. Keep the stump exposed to help it dry out—that means folding the front of baby’s diaper to avoid covering it up.

Keep the stump clean. If it gets dirty or sticky, clean it with some water and then dry it by dabbing a clean cloth around the stub or just fanning it.

Stick with sponge baths. Since you want to keep the stump dry as much as possible, give baby sponge baths during the healing process. Once the stump falls off, you can bathe baby in the tub (or sink, whatever suits your fancy).

Let the stump fall off on its own. It’s hard, we know, but resist the temptation to pick at or pull off the scab. It’ll happen on its own—usually about three weeks after birth.

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