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Baby’s umbilical cord stump and belly button fact sheet

Caring for your baby’s umbilical cord stump and belly button

After your baby is born, your midwife or doctor will clamp and then cut the umbilical cord. After it is cut, a small amount of the cord will remain attached to your baby’s belly button – this will be about two to three centimetres long and is known as the ‘cord stump’.

Over the next seven to 14 days, the stump will get darker, dry out, shrivel and will eventually fall off. There will be a small wound remaining, which will heal and become your baby’s belly button. Here are some easy care tips for your child’s umbilical stump before it falls off and their belly button after the stump falls off.

Keep the stump clean

  • Wash your hands before touching your baby’s cord stump and before and after nappy changes.
  • Wash your baby’s stump with plain water when you bath or sponge them. You don’t need to use any soap, creams or antiseptic ointment to keep it clean.
  • Make sure the stump dries properly after your baby’s bath. Gently pat it dry with a towel or soft cloth. Fold the nappies down so that the cord isn’t covered and allow some time to air dry it if the weather is not too cold.
  • If the stump gets poo or wee on it, wash it off with clean water, or soap as needed.  Make sure you gently pat it dry and allow some time to air dry it.
  • Don’t pull on the cord; it will fall off by itself.

What do I do once the cord stump has fallen off?

  • You can simply throw the cord stump in the bin. Continue to wash your hands before touching your baby’s belly button area.
  • It is normal for the belly button to look a bit mucky or to have a red spot where the cord used to be. It can also be smelly and have some clear, sticky or brownish ooze that might leave a stain on your baby’s nappy or clothes. This is part of the healing process, which may take up to seven days to mend completely. It does not cause your baby any pain.
  • Continue to keep your baby’s belly button area clean and dry by washing with plain water when in the bath and patting it dry. Keep folding your baby’s nappy down and allow some time to air dry it.
  • If the belly button has some ooze, you can wet a cotton bud with warm water to gently clean it, ensuring it doesn’t bleed. Use a new cotton bud each time you wipe the area and then throw it away.

When should I see a doctor?

  • If your baby develops a fever or high temperature.
  • If there is redness or streaking around the belly button and it is tender and warm to touch.
  • If there is a cloudy ooze that doesn’t clear up after you clean the area.

If your baby becomes sleepy, doesn’t want to feed as normal, or appears to be unwell.

For further assistance:

  • Phone 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) and ask to speak to a child health nurse.
  • Visit your local community and child health centre.

Contact us

Queensland Children’s Hospital
501 Stanley Street, South Brisbane
t: 07 3068 1111 (general enquiries)

In an emergency, always contact 000 for immediate assistance.

Resource No: FS269. Developed by the Division of Medicine, Queensland Children’s Hospital. Updated: May 2017. All information contained in this sheet has been supplied by qualified professionals as a guideline for care only. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.

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