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How to Clean an Umbilical Cord Stump on a Newborn Baby

By Kimbry Parker ; Updated April 18, 2017
Keep the umbilical cord stump as dry as possible to promote healing.

When you bring home your new bundle of joy, you might be overwhelmed with all the care he requires. With the late-night feedings and hourly diaper changes, you might not be thinking much about cleaning the umbilical cord stump, but this dark-colored nub protruding from you baby’s little tummy requires special attention. Improper cleaning of the umbilical cord stump can lead to infection, so while you’re waiting the few weeks it usually takes for it to fall off, give baby’s belly button some TLC to keep him healthy.

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Fill a clean sink with warm water. Add a squirt of mild baby soap and mix it into the water.

Dip a cotton swab into the soapy water. Squeeze the tip of the swab with your fingers to remove the excess water.

Wipe the swab gently around the stump and the surrounding skin. Pat the area dry with a soft cloth.

Things You Will Need

  • Mild baby soap
  • Cotton swab
  • Soft cloth


Some doctors may recommend using rubbing alcohol rather than soap and water. If this is the case with your baby’s pediatrician, apply baby lotion to the skin around the stump prior to cleaning to help protect his skin. Keep the umbilical cord stump as dry as possible to help it heal and fall off faster. Fold your baby’s diaper down so it’s not covering the stump. This will let air hit the stump, which helps it to dry out, and also prevents urine from hitting the area, which can cause irritation.


Do not bathe your baby in a bathtub filled with water until the umbilical stump falls off. Call the doctor if the stump has not fallen off by the time your baby reaches 1 month old. Also call a doctor if your baby cries when you touch the stump or surrounding skin, if there’s a yellow or foul-smelling discharge from the area or if the skin around the base of the stump is red. A few drops of blood from the stump is normal, but if active bleeding occurs, call the doctor immediately.

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About the Author

Kimbry Parker has been writing since 1998 and has published content on various websites. Parker has experience writing on a variety of topics such as health, parenting, home improvement and decorating. She is a graduate of Purdue University with a Bachelor of Arts in organizational communication.

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