How to Care for Your Newborn’s Cord: It’s Simple!

How to Care for Your Newborn’s Cord: It’s Simple!

Being responsible for newborn cord care may seem daunting but, good news! Cord care is simple. All you have to do is keep it clean and dry!


Newborn nurses explain how to care for baby's umbilical cord.


Why does my baby have a cord?

In the womb, your baby received oxygen and nutrients through the umbilical cord while you were pregnant. At birth, the cord was clamped and cut, leaving only a short stump. The cord stump looks white and shiny initially but as it dries, it becomes dark brown or blackish.

Although it may look sore, there are no pain receptors in the umbilical cord.


How do I care for the cord?

In the past decades, treatments such as rubbing alcohol or gentian violet were used to dry the cord. Recent research has shown that keeping the cord clean and dry is all that is needed.

noname-4Fold down the front of the diaper to expose the cord to air.

• If the cord is damp, it can develop a foul, rotten smell. If you notice a foul odor, use cotton swabs to dry inside the baby’s umbilical area, right at the base of the cord. It may take several cotton swabs to completely dry the area.

• If the cord becomes soiled, clean it with plain water and pat it dry.

• As the cord begins to detach, you may notice a drop or two of blood on baby’s diaper. This is a sign the cord will soon fall off. A spot of blood, less than a quarter coin size, is considered normal. Never attempt to pull on the cord, even if it looks like it is hanging on by a thread.


When should I be concerned?

Take your baby to see you healthcare provider if you notice any of the following:

• Baby’s cord continues to ooze, leaving quarter sized or larger spots of blood on the diaper.

• The skin around the umbilicus is reddened, swollen or warm to touch

• A thick “pus” coming from the base of cord

• Baby has a fever or seems unwell

The cord stump should fall off by the time baby is 3 weeks old. This is a natural process that happens on it’s own if the cord is kept clean and dry.




References and More Information:

  1. Your Baby’s Skin.Caring for Kids. Canadian Paediatric Society, Feb. 2012. Web.
  2. Zupan J, Garner P, Omari AAA. “Topical Umbilical Cord Care at Birth.” Cochrane Database of Systematic Reviews 2004, Issue 3. Art. No.: CD001057.


Learn more about newborn care in these posts: Diapering Tips for New Parents and Baby Bath Time.



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Cindy and Jana are Registered Nurses and International Board Certified Lactation Consultants who have assisted over 20,000 families.


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