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How to Properly Care for the Baby Cord

Hand touching baby
Photograph by Getty Images

In utero, the umbilical cord carries oxygen and essential nutrients to your baby. After your baby is born, the umbilical cord is no longer needed, so it’s cut and clamped. Within a week or so, the stump that’s left behind will fall off; until then, you’ll need to take certain measures to ensure that it doesn’t become infected.

RELATED: Umbilical Cord Care: Do's and Don'ts for Parents

Keep it Clean

The most essential step when caring for your newborn’s cord is to keep it clean. While pediatricians used to instruct new parents to clean the stump with rubbing alcohol, this is no longer the case, states the Mayo Clinic. New research, in fact, has shown that the stump will heal faster if it is left alone. If it does get dirty, clean it gently with plain water, and let it air dry.

Keep it Dry

Although you may be itching to bathe your baby in that cute little whale bathtub you received at your shower, hold off. If the cord becomes wet, it could become irritated or infected. According to the American Pregnancy Association, you’ll want to give your wee one sponge baths only until his cord completely falls off. Once it does so, you can bathe your baby completely in a tub or sink.

Give it Some Air

As often as possible, expose the stump to air, which, according to the American Pregnancy Association, will help it dry out faster and fall off more quickly. Use newborn diapers that are specifically designed to fold down around the stump, and, when possible, dress your baby only in a diaper and T-shirt.

RELATED: Umbilical Cord Care

Let it Go

Although it may not be pretty to look at, you’ll want to resist the urge to remove the stump yourself. For it to heal properly, it must fall off on its own, even if it’s still barely hanging on. If you notice any signs of infection – for instance if it appears red, swollen or oozing – consult your pediatrician immediately. According to the APA, an infected umbilical cord can lead to omphalitis, a potentially life-threatening illness.

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