How to Care for Your Newborn’s Umbilical Cord

Let’s look at what happens to your baby’s umbilical cord after birth.

After your baby is born, their umbilical cord is clamped and cut, leaving the plastic clamp or muka pito tie on the remaining stump. Once the stump has dried and sealed, around 1-2 days after birth, the clamp or tie will be removed by a midwife or nurse. Within 7-10 days, it will dry and shrivel up, and separate from your baby’s belly button.

When caring for your baby’s belly button, it’s important to:

  • Wash your hands before touching the area.
  • Avoid touching the stump.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.
  • Only use water to clean your baby – avoid using soap, creams, powders or antiseptics.
  • Try not to cover up the stump with nappies as this can make it warm and moist. Put on their nappy as normal and fold down the top so the umbilical cord stump is uncovered.
  • Refrain from pulling off the stump; it will drop off on its own when it is ready.

If your baby’s stump, belly button or the skin surrounding it is red, sticky, smelly or bleeding, call your midwife or GP.

Some babies will have an umbilical hernia where their belly button sticks out – usually it is soft and doesn’t cause them any pain. It very rarely requires treatment and can take up to five years to resolve.