Even though it seems complicated, umbilical cord care is fairly simple and easy to do.
As a Certified Family Nurse Practitioner, International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and Co-Founder of Nurture by NAPS, I get a ton of questions about babies.
One of the things we often glaze over while reading up on newborns is umbilical cord care. It’s something we really don’t consider until we’re staring at it thinking, “uh, is that normal?”
How do I take care of this thing anyway?
If you’re wondering how to care for your baby’s umbilical cord before it falls off, it’s very simple. You’ll want to fold the diaper down so it allows fresh air to the stump while preventing urine from getting on it.
How long does it take for a baby’s umbilical cord to come off?
The good news is that it won’t be all that long. Umbilical cord stumps tend to fall off anywhere from 7 to 21 days after birth. Keeping it clean and dry will help so it’s best to skip a full-on bath for your baby until it does.
Instead, I’d opt for a sponge bath until this happens or else that cord can get really gross and smelly (trust the voice of experience here!). Once it does fall off, there will be the tiniest of wounds which can take about 7 to 10 days to heal. A small spot of blood on the diaper is totally normal.
Is it infected? How do I know?
Some slight bleeding is nothing to worry about, but if there’s lots of blood, pus, redness, or stinky discharge, these are signs of an infection and a reason to call the pediatrician at once.
Can I just pull off the umbilical cord stump?
Nooooo! The stump needs to fall off naturally and please trust that it will do just that. Don’t pull at it, even if it seems to be hanging on by a hair or you’ll increase the risk of infection.
What do I do when it falls off?
Here’s the best part…you get to do nothing. Now you can freely bathe that sweet baby. Just be careful that when it falls off, you don’t have any pets that come along to eat it. We can never fully shake that scene from Sex and the City when Miranda’s cat eats the umbilical cord stump. Yuck.
Umbilical cord care is fairly simple even if the sight of it seems complicated (and a little gross). Just let it do its thing and don’t let the cat eat it.
Check out our free Advice from 2 Labor Nurses video for tips and reflections about pregnancy, giving birth, recovery, and becoming a mom for the first time.