In the womb, the umbilical cord connects the fetus to the mother. After birth, the cord is no longer needed. It is clamped and then cut. This leaves a small stump.
In most cases, the umbilical cord stump dries up and falls off the newborn within the first few weeks of life. Sometimes, the cord may bleed as it separates from the belly button (navel). It may also bleed slightly if it is rubbed by the newborn’s diaper.
To treat umbilical cord bleeding, hold a sterile gauze pad to the cord with gentle pressure as instructed by your child’s healthcare provider. This will usually stop the bleeding. If bleeding still does not stop after applying pressure, call your child’s provider or seek treatment right away.
Make sure that the baby's diaper does not cover the navel until the cord has fallen off and the area where the cord was attached is dry and healing. This helps the cord dry more quickly, and prevents contamination from urine and stool.
Don’t put your baby in bathwater until the cord falls off. Instead, bathe your baby with a sponge or damp washcloth.
Watch for signs of infection (see the “When to seek medical advice” below).
Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider as advised.
Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:
Your child has bleeding from the cord that doesn’t stop even after applying direct pressure as instructed by the provider.
Your child has bleeding that is more than the size of a quarter.
Your child has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider. (Seek treatment right away. Fever in a young baby can be a sign of a serious infection.)
Your child has signs of infection around the cord, such as redness, swelling, or cloudy or foul-smelling drainage.
Your child cries or appears to be in pain when you touch the area around the cord and navel.
Your child develops a rash, pimples, or blisters around the navel.
Your child’s cord does not fall off within the timeframe given by the provider.
Your child appears ill or has any other symptoms that concern you.
© 2000-2020 The StayWell Company, LLC. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.