Congratulations! You made it through labor, delivery, and now bringing home a little bundle of joy. There is so much to learn as a new mom and one of the tasks you’ll have to master is learning how to properly care for the umbilical cord.

A women’s body is an amazing vessel. The very moment that there is a baby forming inside, the body immediately begins building the perfect atmosphere for the baby to flourish in. Around the 3 week mark, the umbilical cord begins to form. Through the umbilical cord is how your baby receives oxygen and nutrients throughout pregnancy. 

person covering infant with swaddling blanket
Photo by Isaac Taylor on

At birth, the cord is clamped and then cut, leaving only a short stump still attached to the baby. It is important to know how to take care of it during the time it is still attached before falling off on its own. The essential thing to remember is to always keep it dry. In the past, it was advised to use alcohol to dry it out, however, recent research shows that’s not necessary and allowing it to dry up naturally is best. Here are some easy to follow tips on how to keep the cord clean and dry:

  • If the cord is damp is can start to smell pretty terrible, however you do not want to use soap to wash it. Instead, use cotton swabs to dry inside the umbilical area right at the base of the cord.
  • Adjust how you put the diaper on the baby. It helps to place it right under the bellybotton and not ontop. It will help the cord to dry out faster. If you find that the diaper doesn’t fit that way, you can roll down the front.
  • There is a definite, if not for certain, possibility that your baby is going to have a poop blowout. If and when the cord becomes soild, wash it with only water and use the cotton swab trick until it is dry.
  • One of the biggest questions about taking care of the cord is what bathtime looks like. It is best to give baby a sponge bath! I have found that the best way to make sure baby is getting clean while keeping the cord dry is to bathe the baby in a baby bathtub that comes with a sling. The sling holds the baby low enough in the water to get clean but high enough out of the water where the belly is not submerged. The good thing about a baby bathtub that comes with a sling is that the sling can be removed and grow with the baby as it grows! Here is a good one that can be purchased on Amazon.
  • NEVER pull at the cord even if it looks like it is only barely hanging on
  • Adding to that, dress your baby in lose clothes. That will help avoid rubbing.

As long as there is no pus, redness, or odor around the belly button then there shouldn’t be any reason for concern. I recommend seeing your pediatrician if the cord stump has not fallen off on its own within 4 weeks. I hope this answers some of the basics and sets you up for success! Ask questions, trust your intuition, and be your child’s biggest advocate. You’ve got this, mama!

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