Before birth, the umbilical cord transfers nutrients and oxygen from the mother to the baby. After birth, the baby’s umbilical cord is cut, and the left-over stump is clamped or tied.

You’ve learnt how to change a diaper, the signs of a diaper rash, the dos and don’ts of bath time and genital hygiene for your newborn. Now it’s time to take a minute to read our pointers on umbilical cord hygiene and care.

Here’s what you need to know.

1. The umbilical stump gets darker, shrivels and will eventually fall off. This can take up to two weeks.

2. Just before it falls off, you may notice some clear, sticky or brownish oozing (maybe smelly) around the belly button. This is normal and part of the healing process.

3. Never try to pull it off yourself and avoid touching it if possible. Always wash your hands before and after touching the stump.

4. Keep the stump dry and expose it to air to help dry out the base. Do not bandage the belly button unless instructed by a childcare expert.

5. Fold the front of your baby’s diaper down to avoid covering the stump. Don’t clean it with soaps, antiseptics, alcohol or anything that hasn’t been recommended by your doctor.

6. To avoid getting it wet, you can give your baby sponge baths till it falls off.

Consult or ask your doctor if:

  • The stump gets pee or poo on it. Check in with them to see if they recommend any cleanser in addition to clean water.
  • The stump hasn’t fallen off within three weeks. This may be a sign of an infection or immune system disorder.
  • Your baby develops a small pink or red lump where the belly button should be (umbilical granuloma) OR the baby develops a bulge or swelling near the belly button (an umbilical hernia).
  • You continue to see sticky liquid many days after the stump has fallen off; your baby is unwell or has a fever; the belly button area is hot, red or swollen.

Our guide outlines the facts based on research from several online and offline resources. If you are in doubt or worried about your child’s health and/or safety for any reason, consult with a qualified medical care professional or doctor immediately.

Related articles:

Benefits of Reading to Your Child

Talking to Your Baby – The Why & How

Baby's First Year Feeding Guide

The Importance of Make-Believe Play

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