Content Map Terms

Caring for Your Baby's Umbilical Cord Area


newborn baby getting a bath



A small portion of your  baby's umbilical cord will remain attached after birth. This stump will fall off on its own within about five to 15 days.  

In the meantime, it needs gentle care. 

Here are some important tips:

  • To prevent infection, keep the cord area clean and dry.
  • Use water on a cotton tipped applicator or washcloth to clean gently around the base of the cord. Wipe away any cord discharge.
  • Gently clean around the base of the cord after bathing and during diaper changes. 
  • Fold the diaper below the cord to prevent irritation and keep the cord dry and exposed to air.
  • Continue to clean the belly button for a few days after the cord falls off. 
  • As the stump continues to dry and heal, it may appear brown, gray or even black. This is a normal part of the healing process.

The cord may be infected if the area around it becomes red and swollen or is discharging pus. Call your health care provider or public health nurse if:

  • The skin around your baby’s umbilical cord stump is warm, red, or swollen.
  • There is a foul smelling discharge from the cord.
  • The cord is very wet and won’t dry despite exposure to air.

Resources and Links:
HealthLink BC: Umbilical Cord Care

Last Updated: August 5, 2013