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STUMPED: A Guide To Your Baby’s Umbilical Stump

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Caring For Your Baby’s Umbilical Stump

…and what you need to know!

One of the first things (if not the first) that the father will get to do when your baby is born, is cut the cord. This has been the lifeline from your baby to her mother for the past nine months, and now that phase is over, and your baby will be living and surviving in life outside the womb. The physical result of cutting the cord, is of course, our belly buttons. But before we’re left with a clean and well formed belly button, a 2cm to 3cm long stump will be present, after the cord is clamped off by the midwife or obstetrician. Today, we’ll be discussing this stump, how to care for it, and how long it’ll be a part of your baby before falling off on its own.

Umbilical Cord Stump



How long will my baby have her umbilical stump?

The general rule of thumb here…

4 to 7 Days

That’s the time after your baby is born, as when the majority of stumps will fall off. Our baby’s stump fell off after 3 days, so take this just as a general guideline.

So what will happen is, after the cord is cut, the stump will be clamped, to seal it and stop any bleeding. In the coming days, your baby’s body will of course have no more need for it, and the stump will begin to dry on its own, and fall off when it’s ready.

“The stump itself will then shrivel up, turn black, and drop off (Oudesluys-Murphy 1987). There will be a small wound that will heal and become your baby’s belly button.” //


Caring for the stump

What you will need to do is keep the umbilical stump clean and dry, to avoid any chance of infection.

“You can do this by giving your baby a bath or topping and tailing him with a warm, moist washer or sponge. It’s safe to get the stump wet. It won’t slow up healing or make infection more likely (Bryanton et al 2004).” //

Washing your baby’s stump is simple and easy. All you will need to do is use tap water, and if you do choose to use a baby cleanser, just be sure to use on that is pH neutral. Wash your baby and softly pat the stump with a soft cloth. You can also use a cotton bud to gently clean around the edges, and remove any excess gunk or dried blood.

Dry the area properly before putting on a diaper, and when you do, fold the top of the diaper over to leave the stump free and uncovered.

Now, if your baby was born prematurely, it is a good idea to use antiseptic to clean the stump, but of course consult your obstetrician regarding this. This is because she typically won’t be able to have a bath for a while.

A few more stump cleaning tips from

  • Always wash your hands before handling your baby’s stump, before and after nappy changes and washes.
  • Let the stump come away naturally. Don’t pull on it.
  • Try to keep the stump from getting covered in wee or poo. You can do this by folding down the waist of your baby’s nappy. This will leave the stump exposed to the air or covered by loose, clean clothes. Some nappies have a cut-out on the front to leave the stump uncovered.
  • If the stump does gets wee or poo on it, wash it off carefully with water 


Baby Stump Care


The Healing Time for the Belly Button

7 to 10 Days

So once the stump dries up and falls off, seven to 10 days is the norm for the full healing of the area. Of course, sometimes it can take longer than this, and lumpy flesh may become present in the wound. Don’t be alarmed as this is normal and the lumps should soon dissipate.

What about infection?

The following it could mean the stump has become infected:

  • Your baby develops a fever, becomes lethargic, doesn’t want to feed as much, or appears generally unwell.
  • His navel and the surrounding area becomes swollen or red.
  • The stump becomes swollen, smelly or weepy. //

Be sure to ask your midwife to check the stump if you have any concerns about how it appears or smells.

“Your midwife or health nurse may suggest your GP sees your baby’s stump, to decide if it should be sealed. Sealing is called cauterisation. It is a simple procedure that can be done by your GP. The GP will use a little stick called a silver nitrate stick to do the job. It is a very common procedure and it won’t hurt your baby at all.” //

When to be concerned and seek advice immediately?

  • Yellowish, stinky drainage (= pus)
  • Redness around the belly button
  • Tenderness to the touch
  • Fever
  • If there is persistent discharge and swelling after the cord has fallen off. //


For more related articles read our other posts:



Baby Centre

Raising Children

Web MD


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