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Umbilical cord care in newborns

Alternative Names

Cord - umbilical

Information

When the umbilical cord is cut during birth, it leaves a stump. The stump should dry, heal, and fall off by the time your baby is 4 weeks old. While the cord is healing, keep it as clean and as dry as possible. Sponge bathe your baby rather than placing him or her in a tub of water.

Watch the umbilical cord for infection. This does not occur often, but can spread quickly if it does occur. Signs of infection are:

  • Foul-smelling, yellow drainage from the cord
  • Redness and tenderness of the skin around the cord

Another uncommon problem is active bleeding. This usually occurs when the cord is pulled off too soon. Let the cord fall off naturally, even if it is only hanging on by a thread. In active bleeding, every time you wipe away a drop of blood, another drop appears. If the cord continues to bleed, call your baby’s doctor immediately.

Sometimes instead of completely drying, the cord will form pink scar tissue, called a a granuloma. This granuloma drains a light-yellowish fluid. This will usually go away in about a week. If it does not, call your pediatrician.

 If your baby's stump remains after 4 weeks, there may be a problem with the baby's anatomy or immune system. Call your pediatrician.

References

Carlo WA. The umbilicus. In: Kliegman RM, Behrman RE, Jenson HB, Stanton BF, eds. Nelson Textbook of Pediatrics. 19th ed. Philadelphia, Pa: Saunders Elsevier; 2011:chap 99.

Updated: 11/13/2011

Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.


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