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Baby health

How to care for your baby’s umbilical cord stump

Not sure what to do with that little umbilical cord nub while you’re waiting for it to fall off? We asked a paediatrician.

How to care for your baby’s umbilical cord stump

Photo: iStockphoto

How do I deal with my baby’s umbilical cord stump?

The short answer is: Leave it alone. The cord stump is dead tissue. It’s like a scab, and it takes anywhere from a week to a month to fall off. Just like a scab, it’s OK for it to get wet when you bathe your baby. Use soap and water to clean it gently. I don’t recommend applying rubbing alcohol, because it can irritate the skin and will kill off not just the unhealthy bacteria but the healthy bacteria as well.

When the cord starts to loosen, you’ll notice some drops of blood or pus. This is normal and will resolve in a day or two. The dried cord will smell, as it is dead tissue. Infections are rare, but look out for signs of infection, which include a fever, redness and swelling around the cord that increases over time. If you notice any of these, you should see a doctor right away.

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