How to Care for my Newborn Baby’s Cord

Your baby will have a section of its umbilical cord still attached for the first 5-14 days approximately. Its appearance will change over time until finally it falls off naturally. You are advised not to put any special products on the cord, just wash with water and dry it if there is any seeping or smell noted.

Doing up your baby’s nappy with the cord outside of it can help to dry it up more quickly.

The length of the cord at birth and the way it is cut will not affect the final appearance of the baby’s belly button (navel).

What Happens to My Baby’s Cord After Birth?

Day 1-2

The cord will be quite thick and soft and will be held closed with a plastic clamp or peg.

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Day 2-3

In the first two or three days the cord will get thinner looking and be harder and drier to the touch.

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Day 3-5

The cord will become very dark and hard in the first week.

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Day 5+

The cord may begin to ooze a little around where it joins onto your baby’s skin. This is when you can wash it off with water and dry it. Do not be scared to gently move it and clean underneath – it will not hurt your baby. Soon it will fall off, but never try to pull or pick it off.

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When the cord falls off Day 5-14

There will be a small ‘scab’ where the cord falls away from your baby’s tummy. Just keep this clean and dry and over a period of time, new skin will develop. During this time there can be a little bit of old blood marking your baby’s vest or clothes. Just give the cord a wash and dry and new skin will cover this area over time.

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If your baby still has his/ her cord attached after day 14 then contact your GP or Health Visitor for further advice.


Is my Baby’s Cord Infected?

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If the skin around the bay’s cord looks red then it could be a sign of infection, particularly if the redness is above the cord in a line pointing up towards the baby’s chin  (where the arrow is in the picture below).

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If ANY of the following symptoms:

  • Baby is too hot or cold even though you have taken off or added clothes. If you have a thermometer – too cold is below 36 degrees C and too hot is above 38 degrees C.


  • Skin is pale, blue or mottled.


  • Baby is making a grunting noise when she/ he breathes, flaring their nostrils and drawing in their tummy with every breath.


  • Baby is very floppy and weak or very stiff with jerky movements.


  • Skin around the baby’s lips, tongue or gums is blue.

You need urgent help.

Go to the nearest Hospital Emergency (A&E) Department or phone 999


  • The cord is wet or seeping


  •  The cord has an unpleasant smell that does not go away when you clean it.


  • There is a red area around or above the cord but otherwise your baby seems well.

You need to contact a doctor or nurse today.

Please ring your GP surgery, your Community Midwife servie or call NHS 111 - dial 111

The cord is following the normal stages of separation – check out the information in ‘What Happens to My Baby’s Cord After Birth’

Self care

Continue providing your child’s care at home. If you are still concerned about your child, call NHS 111 – dial 111

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