Caring for Your New Baby’s Belly Button

As a new mom, you’re now lined up to face 18 years’ worth of unique tests and challenges that come with being a parent. One of the very first? Next to feeding and changing diapers, you’ll have to care for your newborn’s umbilical stump, an essential baby care basic all new parents should know.

Once your baby’s umbilical cord is cut after birth, it gradually starts to shrivel up. In a week or two, it’ll fall off completely and reveal an adorable belly button -- though you’ll have to wait and see whether it’s an innie or an outie. In the meantime, you’ll need to care for the stump to help it heal.

Helpful cord care hints

  1. Keep it clean. Doctors used to tell parents to clean the stump’s base with rubbing alcohol and a cotton swab. Now they say it’s best to leave the area alone completely, since alcohol could irritate the skin. Natural antimicrobials like goldenseal root or echinacea could help, but talk to your pediatrician first.

  2. Keep it dry. Let your baby’s skin be exposed to air as often as possible, which will help the stump stay dry and speed up healing time. Fold the top of your baby’s diaper down so the stump sticks out, or use special newborn diapers with an umbilical cord notch for the stump.

  3. Stick to sponge baths. They’ll help keep your baby clean without submerging his stump in water, which could increase the risk for infection. If the stump does get wet, fan it dry instead of rubbing, to prevent irritation.

  4. Let the cord do its thing. Your baby’s stump will heal and fall off on its own. So as hard as it might be, resist the temptation to touch it, pick at it, or try to pull it off, which could increase the risk of infection.