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Umbilical cord care

The umbilical cord connects you to your baby whilst they are in the womb, it delivers the oxygen and nutrients they need to grow during your pregnancy.

After your baby has been born, the cord will be clamped and cut. The cord doesn’t contain any nerves, so neither you nor your baby will feel anything. A small stump will be left and it will fall off naturally. Do not pull, cut or tamper with the cord.

Caring for your baby’s umbilical stump

  • Clean it with water, especially if it comes into contact with any wee or poo from their nappy.
  • Ensure the cord is properly dried after cleaning.
  • Expose the belly button to the air by rolling back the top of the nappy. Make sure your baby’s nappy does not press too tightly on their cord, as this can press the clamp uncomfortably against their tummy.

After a few days, the cord will dry, become darker in colour and fall off.

Most umbilical stumps will heal with no problems, but it’s important to be aware of the signs of infection. If you notice any of the following signs, speak to your GP:

  • A strong and unpleasant smell
  • The area around the umbilical stump becoming red, inflamed or oozing discharge
  • Bleeding from the area

Umbilical granuloma

An umbilical granuloma is an overgrowth of tissue during the healing process of the belly button (umbilicus). It usually looks like a soft pink or red lump and is often wet or leaks small amounts of clear or yellow fluid. It is most common in the first few weeks of a baby’s life. The exact cause of this overgrowth is unknown.

Always seek advice from your health visitor if you think your child might have an umbilical granuloma.

Umbilical hernia

Rarely, an umbilical hernia can develop after the cord has fallen off. An umbilical hernia will appear as a painless lump where the umbilical cord used to be, it might even change in size if they are sitting or lying down, laughing, crying or coughing.

Most umbilical hernias will heal on their own before your child’s first birthday, but you should speak to a GP if you’re concerned about your child’s hernia.

Useful links

NHS – Getting to know your newborn

NHS – Umbilical hernias

iHV leaflet – Understanding umbilical granuloma

Page last reviewed: 26-01-2022

Next review due: 26-01-2025