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Umbilical Cord Care

Proper care can help your baby’s umbilical cord heal. Do not pull or pick at the cord. It should fall off on its own within 2 weeks after the birth. Even after the cord falls off, keep cleaning your baby’s bellybutton for about a week. Use the steps below as a guide.

Closeup of baby's abdomen showing inflammation on belly around umbilical cord stump.

Caring for Your Baby’s Umbilical Cord

To help prevent infection and keep the cord dry:

  • Keep the cord open to the air.

  • Fold down the top edge of the diaper, so the diaper will not cover or rub against the cord.

  • Avoid clothing that constricts the cord.

  • Do not place the baby in bath water until the cord has fallen off. Until your baby’s umbilical cord falls off, give sponge baths every 2 or 3 days.

  • Do not manually pull off the cord.

Call your baby’s health care provider

Contact your baby's health care provider if you see any of the following:

  • Redness or swelling around the cord

  • Discharge or bad odor coming from the cord

  • The cord doesn’t fall off by 4 weeks after the birth

  • Your baby has a rectal temperature of 100.4°F (38.0°C) or higher

  • The cord stays moist after 2 to 3 days


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