Health Library
Umbilical Cord Care

What Should You Know About Your Baby's Umbilical Cord?

A clamp is placed on the umbilical cord before it is cut. The clamp can be removed when the cord has dried, usually before your baby leaves the hospital.

The cord begins to dry and shrink. The color changes from pale to dark brown and it may look like a scab. The cord falls off by itself in about two to three weeks.

Because the umbilical cord may be a place for infection to enter your baby's body, it is important to care for it properly.

Umbilical Cord Care

  • When the umbilical cord becomes wet with urine, gently clean the base of the umbilical cord with mild soap and warm water. Rinse the area and pat it dry.
  • Keep the belly button area dry. You may need to fold the top of the diaper down.
  • Change your baby’s diaper frequently, with every feeding. A wet diaper on the cord keeps the cord from drying and increases the risk of infection.
  • Do not bathe your baby in a tub or sink until the cord falls off. You may give your baby a sponge bath until then.
  • When the cord falls off, you might notice a small pink area in the bottom of the belly button. This is expected, and normal skin will grow over it.
  • Do not pull the cord off yourself, even if it is hanging on just by a thread.

Call Your Child's Doctor If:

Call your baby’s doctor for the following signs of an infection in the belly button:

  • Redness
  • Warmer than the skin around it
  • Tender to the touch
  • Drainage or bad odor

Last Updated 05/2022

Reviewed By Kelli Harding, RN

Visiting Cincinnati Childrens.

Cincinnati Children’s has primary care services at locations throughout Greater Cincinnati.