Caring for your baby’s umbilical cord

When your baby is born the midwife will usually clamp the umbilical cord and then either they, you or your birth partner will cut it. This isn’t painful for the baby as there are no nerves in the cord, so don’t worry.

Over the next 5 to 15 days this stump will dry out, turn a dark almost black colour and drop off. This will then form your baby’s belly button. After the stump comes off it can take about 7 to 10 days for the belly button to heal completely.

The best way to keep it clean and dry is to keep it outside of the nappy and let nature do its thing. Your midwife and maternity support workers will be visiting you at home to look over it regularly. If you ever feel you need to give it a wipe (if it gets dirty or if your midwife advises), use cotton wool soaked in pre-boiled cooled water and wipe around the cord. Then discard that piece of cotton wool, before doing it again with a fresh piece. Make sure that it’s dry afterwards.

If you see any bleeding or discharge from it, then do ask your midwife to take a look. It’s really important that you do not pull or cut the stump as this will be very sore for your baby.

While your baby still has the clamp attached, a good tip is to fold their nappy down a little so that it’s not pressing on the clamp; this will be far more comfy for your baby.

For more information on how to look after your baby’s umbilical cord:


An alternative method of caring for your baby’s umbilical cord is called a lotus birth. This is when the cord is not clamped or cut at birth, so the baby remains attached to the placenta until the cord naturally separates. If this is something that interests you, speak to your midwife about how to do this most safely.