Umbilical cord and belly button care

After the birth of your baby, the doctor or midwife will cut and clamp the umbilical cord from the placenta. A stump will be left behind, which will eventually fall off, leaving a cute little belly button.

Most umbilical cords will heal without any issues, but to prevent infection, here is how to take care of it.

Umbilical cord care

The cord stump will be white or yellow in colour at first. After a couple of days, once the cord has dried and become black, you can remove the clamp.

It’s important not to pull the cord stump off, even if it looks like it could come off easily. Allow it to come off naturally, which will be anytime between 5-15 days.

To keep the umbilical cord stump clean

Wash the umbilical cord stump each day. Until the cord has healed, you can give your baby sponge baths and regular wipe-downs. Read why it’s best to delay baby’s first bath.

  1. Wash your hands before cleaning the area. Try not to handle it unless you’re cleaning it.
  2. Use only water and cotton pads, being careful when drying it thoroughly.
  3. If wee or poo gets on it, you can use a mild soap to wash it off (there’s no need to use alcohol or antiseptic).
  4. Give the cord stump some air to dry it out by folding your baby’s nappy underneath it if possible.

Signs that the cord could be infected

Speak to your GP or midwife if you notice any of the following:

  • Redness or swelling
  • Stickiness or oozing
  • An unpleasant smell on or around the belly button
  • Bleeding
  • Fever, poor feeding, or tiredness in your baby

Once the cord stump has come off

When the stump falls off, there is sometimes a little bleeding or oozing at the site, which is normal and shouldn’t last long. The belly button should heal completely within a few days, but if it continues to be sticky or there’s a discharge, it could be infected.

When to see your doctor or MCHN immediately:

  • If you think it’s infected or isn’t healing well.
  • If you notice a bulge at the belly button site (this could be an umbilical hernia).
  • Sometimes, a moist red lump can form over the stump site. This is called a ‘granuloma’, which is usually harmless.


X click to search