Umbilical Cord: Care Instructions

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After the umbilical cord is cut at birth, a stump of tissue remains attached to your baby's navel. It usually falls off between 1 and 2 weeks after birth. Keeping the stump and surrounding skin clean and dry helps prevent infection. It may also help the stump to fall off and the navel to heal faster.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

How can you care for your child at home?

  • Keep the area clean and dry.
  • Keep your baby's diaper folded below the stump. If that doesn't work well, before you put the diaper on your baby, cut out a small area near the top of the diaper to keep the cord open to air.
  • To keep the cord dry, give your baby a sponge bath instead of bathing your baby in a tub or sink.
  • Know what to expect.
    • It's normal for the stump to turn brown, gray, or even black as it dries and heals.
    • You may notice a red, raw-looking spot right after the stump falls off. A small amount of fluid sometimes tinged with blood may ooze out of the navel area. This is normal.

When should you call for help?

Call your doctor now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your baby has signs of an infection, such as:
    • Increased swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the area.
    • Pus draining from the area.
    • A fever.
  • Your baby cries when you touch the cord or the skin around it.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor if:

  • There is a moist, red lump on your baby's navel that lasts for more than 2 weeks after the umbilical cord has fallen off.
  • Your child has bulging tissue around the navel after the umbilical cord falls off.

Where can you learn more?

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The Health Encyclopedia contains general health information. Not all treatments or services described are covered benefits for Kaiser Permanente members or offered as services by Kaiser Permanente. For a list of covered benefits, please refer to your Evidence of Coverage or Summary Plan Description. For recommended treatments, please consult with your health care provider.