As a new parent, there are plenty of baby milestones you’re looking out for—including when your baby’s umbilical cord falls off. You may even be wondering what you need to do to care for your newborn’s umbilical cord stump. It’s not the first thing parents think of when taking home their little one for the first time, but still important information to know.

Let’s go over the basics of umbilical cords and how to handle them.

When Does The Umbilical Cord Fall Off?

After your baby is born, the physician (or you) may cut the cord. It’s no longer needed to carry nutrients to the baby or waste away. Because there are no nerves in the cord, neither the parent nor the baby feels anything when it’s clamped.

The remaining piece of the cord is sometimes called the umbilical stump. It’s usually about 1-1½ inches long. At first, it may look shiny and yellow. The cord may turn brown, gray, blue, or purple before it turns black and falls off. This happens as the stump dries out.

The process typically takes between 10 to 14 days. Sometimes it can take up to four weeks.

How Do I Care For The Umbilical Cord?

There are a few steps you can take as you wait for the cord to fall off. These can help speed up healing and prevent infection.

  • Keep it clean. Gently use a damp washcloth on the stump if it looks dirty or sticky. There’s no need to use soap or alcohol. This can irritate the skin. Pay dry.
  • Keep it dry. The more the stump is exposed to air, the faster it dries, the faster it falls off. Also, make sure to change wet diapers quickly. This prevents any fluid from leaking upward towards your baby’s navel.
  • Be gentle. Whether you are replacing a diaper or putting on a new cute outfit, be gentle around the cord. Don’t cover the cord with the diaper. Use loose-fitting clothing. There are even some onesies that have a cut-out for the stump.
  • Try sponge baths. It’s not the worst thing if the stump does get wet. But sponge baths are an easy way to avoid this.
  • Don’t pick at it. Like any scab, leaving it alone is better. Don’t pull or pick on it, even if it seems to be barely hanging on. You don’t want to cause unnecessary bleeding.

What Happens When It Falls Off?

New parents have a lot of worries when it comes to the umbilical cord. Does it hurt when the cord falls off? Does the baby’s cord bleed?

The good news is that there’s usually no pain for your baby. And perhaps just a few drops of blood. There may also be some red-tinged fluid from the area too.

Once the cord has fallen off, it typically takes two weeks or so for the area to fully heal. There can sometimes be a bit of scar tissue but this usually resolves in that same period.

When To Call The Doctor

Generally, most babies’ cords fall off without any issues. Here a few things to watch out for. If you spot any of these, reach out to your pediatrician for more information. These may be signs of infection.

  • Foul, yellow discharge
  • Blood on the end of the cord or excessive bleeding
  • Red and swollen skin around the stump
  • A red streak moving from the navel
  • Fever
  • Your baby cries when the stump is touched

Your baby may have an umbilical hernia if the stump seems to push out when they cry. This could mean there is a hole in the abdominal wall. Thankfully, it’s not considered a serious issue and eventually heals.

Now that you know all about umbilical cords, the next step on your parenting journey is finding quality child care. Use Sittercity to find a caring professional in your area.

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