There are many things during those first few weeks of a newborn that you have to figure out. How to feed them, bathe them, and figure out how to care for them. Umbilical cord care is one of the things a lot of new parents question how to do. There is a lot of old school advice that people still share, yet isn’t appropriate anymore as well as lots of different opinions on what to do or not.

The good thing is that it is a lot simpler than you think. You don’t need to do much, just keep the area clean and dry. Here are some do’s and don’ts on how to care for the umbilical cord before it falls off and after:

DO: Fold down the top of the diaper to make sure it doesn’t cover or rub against the umbilical cord.

DON’T: Use rubbing alcohol. This was once a recommended practice but research has shown that this might kill the bacteria that is needed for the cord to dry and separate naturally.

DO: Give sponge baths. Submerging the baby’s umbilical cord in water makes it more prone to infection and harder to keep dry. Don’t worry if you get it a little wet during the sponge bath though.

DON’T: Pull off the stump yourself. Even if it is hanging by a small area, let it do it on its own.

DO: Let it air out in the open when possible. This will help it dry up as well.

DON’T: Worry if there is small pieces of cord still there after most falls off. Keep following the above and soon that will dry and fall off as well. There may be a small amount of blood as well and that is also ok.

DO: Keep an eye for signs of infection. If there is any redness and swelling surrounding the cord, any pus or if a pink and moist bump develops then call your doctor so this can be treated.

The usual range the cord may fall off is 1-2 weeks post birth, but some can take up to 3 weeks. That is still normal. If it goes longer than 3 weeks than make sure to mention this to your pediatrician. Once all of the cord is off and the belly button area is healed then you can start submerging the baby in the water for baths and stop folding down diapers.

If you have any other questions or concerns about caring for your newborn’s umbilical cord stump then do not hesitate to contact your pediatrician. That is what they are there for.