How to Clean a Newborn’s Umbilical Cord


While in the womb, your baby’s umbilical cord is attached to your uterus and provides nutrition to the fetus. It also carries away any waste products. Once your baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut and clipped to prevent bleeding and allow healing.

Within four weeks the umbilical stump will dry, shrivel and fall off. During this time it’s important to keep the stump dry and clean.


Things You’ll Need

  • Cotton swabs
  • Bowl of warm, soapy water
  • Soft cloth


How to Clean a Newborn’s Umbilical Cord

How to Clean a Newborn's Umbilical Cord

Soak several cotton swabs in the bowl of warm soapy water. Squeeze excess water from the swabs and gently clean the umbilical stump and surrounding skin.

Ensure that you remove any dried, sticky or wet substances from you baby’s stump and skin. Your doctor may advise you to use rubbing alcohol on the stump to help dry it. Before you apply it, gently rub a soothing lotion around the stump to guard baby’s sensitive skin.

Check for any signs of bleeding or infection. As your infant’s stump dries it goes from a shiny, damp white to a brown or gray, dried stump. Do not pull the stump off even if it’s hanging by a thread. Allow it to fall off by itself.

Pat the stump and area dry when finished. Roll baby’s diaper below the stump to keep it dry. Keeping the skin and the stump clean and dry helps prevent infection.


Tips & Warnings

  • When the stump falls off it may appear raw and red-looking. There may even be some blood-tinged oozing out of the navel. This may last for up to two weeks, and is normal. Continue to keep the area dry and clean.
  • To prevent urine from wetting the area, keep your infant’s diaper turned below the stump.
  • Give your baby sponge baths instead of immersing him in a tub of water.
  • Call your doctor if the umbilical stump and surrounding area appears red and tender, with pus oozing from the stump; if swelling and moistness lasts for more than two weeks; if your infant is uncomfortable or cries when you touch the stump or skin; or if you notice a bulging of the navel after the cord falls off.
  • Keep an eye on the umbilical stump for bad-smelling and yellow drainage, or tenderness around the area, which could indicate an infection.


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