How to care for your baby’s umbilical cord and Signs of infection

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During pregnancy, when the baby is still in the mother’s womb the baby receives oxygen and nourishments through a medium called the umbilical cord, which is attached through a small opening in the baby’s abdomen. After birth, the doctor clamps and cut off the umbilical cord close to the baby’s body, a cord clamp is usually used to perform this process, then after the cord is being cut what is left behind is the umbilical stump.

The umbilical stump

The umbilical stump would eventually dry off and drop itself within the period of one to three weeks when the stump falls off usually leave behind a raw spot like a small wound around the abdomen or navel which will take a number of few days or weeks to heal. It is normal if you notice a few blood stains on the baby’s diaper.


1. Always keep the umbilical cord stump clean and dry to keep it from germs and infection.

2. No dressing should be put on the stump while it heals, use a newborn diaper which has a special cut out space at the top for the stump or fold the diaper away from the stump so it doesn’t get wet by urine.

3. Do not bath your baby in a tub or sink, give your baby a sponge bath instead until the navel is completely healed.

4. Allow the cord to naturally heal and fall off by itself, keep your hand off the stump and avoid the temptation of pulling it off even if it seems hanging by a thread.

5. Expose the cord stump to the air to dry to help the stump heal faster.

6. The use of alcohol on the umbilical stump is not always necessary, some may recommend isopropyl alcohol (also known as ‘spirit’) on the stump for it to dry out quickly, instead let nature take its course experts recommends leaving it alone dry and fall off itself. According to research its found that there is a low risk of infection for untreated cord and it tends to heal faster than the use of alcohol.

What are the signs of infection of the umbilical cord stump?

During the healing process, some signs of infection may appear which needs immediate medical attention.

Consult your doctor if:

  • The area around the base of the cord is red and swollen.
  • You notice white pus or yellowish fluid that develops a bad odour.
  • If the area feels painful to the baby or your baby cries when you touch the skin around the cord.
  • If the stump has not separated after three weeks.
  • If there is persistence discharge of blood from the stump.

After the cord falls off, you may notice a firm small reddish lump or module near the place the cord fell off, this lump is called the umbilical granuloma.

And after it has fallen off you may notice a deep opening in the deep muscular area of the abdomen, when baby cries, a small part of the intestine protrudes out through the hole, the inner part is called the umbilical hernia, this hole is likely to close over a few weeks or months.

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