What's the purpose of the umbilical cord?

Babies receive nourishment and oxygen in the womb through the placenta, which is connected to the inner wall of the mother's uterus. The placenta is connected to your baby by the umbilical cord through an opening in the baby's abdomen. After your baby is born, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut close to the body in a painless procedure, leaving an umbilical stump.

How long will my baby have an umbilical stump?

Usually in 7 to 21 days, the stump will dry up and drop off, leaving a small wound that may take a few days to heal.

Does the stump require special care?

It should be kept clean and dry. Fold the baby's diaper below the stump (or buy newborn diapers with a cut-out space for the cord) so it's exposed to the air and won't come in contact with urine. When the stump falls off, you may notice a little blood on the diaper, which is normal. Avoid giving your baby tub baths until the stump falls off. Normal bathing can be given. In warm weather, have your baby wear just a diaper and loose T-shirt to let air circulate and speed the drying process. Avoid dressing your baby in bodysuit-style undershirts until the cord has fallen off. And never attempt to pull off the cord, even if it looks like it's hanging by just a little thread. Sometimes after the stump falls off some bits of lumpy flesh remain. These "umbilical granulomas" may disappear on their own or may need to be treated by your child's doctor. But they aren't serious and don't contain nerves, so any necessary treatment is painless for your baby.

To prevent infection, your doctor or midwife may swab the cord with dye or another antiseptic when she clamps and cuts the cord. For care at home, clean the base of the stump once or twice a day with a cotton swab or gauze pad dipped in rubbing alcohol.

What are the signs of infection?

Consult your Pediatrician if:

  • Your child develops a fever or appears unwell.
  • The navel and the surrounding area become warm, swollen, or red. 
  • You notice pus at the base of the stump.
  • The stump smells foul
  • The stump bleeds continuously