Your baby’s umbilical stump: what to expect
After your baby’s birth, the umbilical cord is clamped and cut. The part of the umbilical cord that’s still attached to your baby is the umbilical stump. Often the clamp is still attached to the stump. A midwife will remove the clamp before you and your baby leave hospital or at your home soon after birth.
During the first few days after birth, the stump gets darker, shrivels and eventually falls off to become your baby’s belly button. Sometimes this takes 1-2 weeks.
While the stump is drying up and just after it falls off, you might notice some oozing around your baby’s belly button. This might be clear, sticky or brownish, and it might leave a mark on your baby’s clothes or nappy. It might also smell a little bit. This is part of the healing process.
- The stump hasn’t fallen off after more than 2 weeks.
- The area around the stump is red or discoloured, has a bad smell, or is warm and tender to touch.
Cleaning and caring for your baby’s belly button
Wash your hands before handling the umbilical stump. Avoid touching it whenever possible.
Use only water to keep your baby’s umbilical stump and belly button area clean, except if the area gets wee or poo on it. If this happens, wash off the wee or poo using clean water and a mild baby cleanser. You can ask your pharmacist or child and family health nurse to recommend a product if you’re not sure.
Make sure the stump dries properly after bathing. Also, the stump will dry and heal much faster if you expose it to air as much as possible. Try not to cover it with plastic pants and nappies. Fold nappies down and away from the stump if you can.
Never try to pull the stump off yourself, even if it looks like it’s ready to fall off.
After the stump has fallen off, keep the area clean and dry until the area heals completely. It helps to fold down the top of your baby’s nappy so that the belly button is exposed to air.
See your GP as soon as possible if you’re still seeing sticky liquid several days after the stump has fallen off, if your baby’s belly button area gets hot, red, discoloured or swollen, or if your baby has a fever or is otherwise unwell.
Once the umbilical stump has fallen off, some babies can develop an umbilical granuloma. This looks like a small pink, red or discoloured lump in the belly button area. Sometimes the lump might be oozing.
An umbilical granuloma might get better on its own, so keep the belly button area clean and dry. It’s also good to have your GP or child and family nurse look at the lump.
If your baby develops a bulge or swelling near the belly button, it might be an umbilical hernia. An umbilical hernia is often more noticeable when your baby cries or strains to do a poo. This usually isn’t dangerous, and it doesn’t hurt your baby.
An umbilical hernia will often go away between the ages of 3 and 5 years. It’s a good to have your GP or child and family health nurse look at the bulge.