How to care for baby’s umbilical cord stump

Taking care of your newborn baby’s umbilical cord stump is one of the first challenges of parenthood and can be a nerve-wracking experience. Here are 5 simple steps to help you keep your little one’s budding belly-button healthy and happy.
Shortly after your baby’s birth, her umbilical cord will be clamped and cut 2-3 cm from the place where it joins her tummy. There are no nerves in the cord so your baby won’t feel a thing.
Over the next few days and weeks the umbilical stump will gradually change from a yellowish-green colour to black as it dries up and falls off. You’ll need to keep it clean and free from infection until it falls off, usually between one and four weeks after birth.

The cord stump does look a bit strange as it does its thing and might be a bit sticky as it dries, even producing some pus. This is nothing to worry about so long as your baby is otherwise healthy. You can read more about the stem cell storing process here.

5 simple steps to a healthy umbilical cord stump and a happy baby

  1. Keep it clean. Warm water and a soft cloth are best. No need for soap. Loose fibres of cotton wool or tissue can become stuck.
  2. Keep it dry. Pat gently with a soft cloth after washing and changing.
  3. Keep it free. Fold down waistbands and dress in loose clothing so that the stump doesn’t catch or rub uncomfortably.
  4. Keep an eye on it. Most umbilical stumps heal easily but you should be aware of the signs of infection and speak to your GP if you are concerned.
  5. Leave it alone. It might be tempting to hasten your baby’s progress to a beautiful belly button but be patient, nature will take its course.

5 signs of umbilical cord stump infection

  1. Swollen or red navel area
  2. Smelly or weepy stump
  3. High temperature or fever
  4. Signs of discomfort, irritation of pain when stump is cleaned.
  5. Lack of interest in feeding or general lethargy.

If your baby shows signs of umbilical cord stump infection you should speak to your GP straight away.

The blood that is left in your baby’s umbilical cord and placenta is packed with life-saving stem cells. Your midwife can collect these for you using our collection kit. It’s as quick and easy as giving blood, and the stem cells can be stored for the future when they may save the life of any matching family member. 
Find out more about our all-inclusive cord blood and tissue services and pricing options.

Please note that this article is for information only. You should speak to your midwife or GP if you have any concerns about the health of your child.

stem cell preservation

BSc (Hons) Microbiology

Chief Executive Officer | Biovault Family

Biovault Family CEO, Kate Sneddon, joined Biovault in July 2009 and became Chief Executive Officer in 2016. As health industry professional her experience includes working as a microbiologist and leader at GSK for over 10 years. Her expertise in cord blood banking has been recognised in her awards, features in Parliamentary Review and Parents Guide to Cord Blood, as well as contributions to research with UCL and others.

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