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Umbilical cord care in newborns

Alternative Names

Cord -- umbilical

Information

When the umbilical cord is cut, it leaves a stump, which then dries, heals, and usually falls off within 1 - 3 weeks. While the cord is healing, keep it as clean and as dry as possible. In order to keep the cord dry, sponge bathe your baby rather than submersing him in a tub of water.

Watch the umbilical cord for infection. This does not occur often, but can spread quickly if it does occur. Signs of infection are:

  • Foul-smelling, yellow drainage from the cord
  • Redness and tenderness of the skin around the cord

Another uncommon problem is active bleeding. This usually occurs when the cord is pulled off too soon. Allow the cord to fall off naturally, even if it is only hanging on by a thread. In active bleeding, every time you wipe away a drop of blood, another drop appears. If the cord does actively bleed, call your baby’s doctor immediately.

Sometimes instead of completely drying, the cord will form a granuloma, which is pink scar tissue. This granuloma drains a light-yellowish fluid. This condition will usually go away in about a week, but if not, your pediatrician may need to burn off (cauterize) the granulation tissue.

The umbilical cord stump should dry up and fall off by the time your baby is 8 weeks old. If your baby's stump remains beyond that time, there may be a problem with the baby's anatomy or immune system. See the baby's doctor if the cord has not dried up and fallen off by the time the baby is 2 months old.


Review Date: 11/2/2009
Reviewed By: Neil K. Kaneshiro, MD, MHA, Clinical Assistant Professor of Pediatrics, University of Washington School of Medicine. Also reviewed by David Zieve, MD, MHA, Medical Director, A.D.A.M., Inc.
The information provided herein should not be used during any medical emergency or for the diagnosis or treatment of any medical condition. A licensed medical professional should be consulted for diagnosis and treatment of any and all medical conditions. Call 911 for all medical emergencies. Links to other sites are provided for information only -- they do not constitute endorsements of those other sites. © 1997- A.D.A.M., Inc. Any duplication or distribution of the information contained herein is strictly prohibited.
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