The care of the umbilical cord

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Philippe Gloaguen
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Fonte: Science Photo Library

The care of the umbilical cord

Hospital you go, habit you find. When it comes to the care of the stump of the umbilical cord, each birth center has its own "recipe", which it transmits to the new parents when the child is discharged. It may happen that these are indications that are the fruit of tradition, of "it has always been done this way".

Ma what the science says about this procedure, that many moms and dads live with anxiety? What exactly needs to be done?


Umbilical cord (PHOTO)

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The umbilical cord is a unique bond between mother and baby. Here are seven important things to remember about this incredible connection that unites the fetus to the mother's placenta.

In this article

  • Umbilical cord care: what to do and what not to do 
  • Umbilical cord care: useful tips
  • When to notify the pediatrician
Read also: Umbilical cord and cord blood: everything you need to know

Umbilical cord care: what to do and what not to do

Indeed you don't have to do much, at least in countries with high hygiene standards, as is certainly the country. The latest position on this subject, published in September 2022, is that of the American Academy of Pediatrics, the association of American pediatricians and is perfectly in line with what was already indicated in 1998 by the World Health Organization. In practice, in "rich" and hygienic countries, the main objective should be simply to keep the abutment as dry as possible to make it easier to fall off.


  • Yes to breathable covers and - if necessary - to a very light cleansing with water or soap and water.
  • Instead, no to antibacterial, antiseptic, disinfectant solutions which not only are useless but could be harmful, because they could favor the selection of particularly virulent bacterial strains and because they seem to delay the moment of detachment.
  • "E definitely not alcohol, which can cause quite painful chemical burns "underlines Adima Lamborghini, family pediatrician in Silvi (Teramo) and member of the Study Center of the Federation of Paesena pediatricians (Fimp).
Read also: Umbilical cord: 5 things you (maybe) don't know

Umbilical cord care: useful tips

Hopefully, the residue of the umbilical cord it will fall off by itself within 7-15 days. But during this period, what concretely needs to be done to take care of it?

  • "Whenever possible, the stump can and should stay in the air, which helps to dry and dry it "advises Lamborghini. However, when the child has to be dressed, better protect it with gauze (dry): "Preferably those of the old type in cotton, not the current ones in non-woven fabric, which let transpire less" suggests the pediatrician.
  • A little trick: to make the gauze stay firmer, one can be taken square, cutting it down to the center from the middle of one side. In this way you can insert the navel into the cut of the gauze itself. "The gauze goes changed three times a day, always without the need to wet it with water or various solutions "he says Sergio Conti Nibali, family pediatrician and contact person of the cultural association of pediatricians.
  • Only if occasionally the cord "gets dirty" a little due to some secretion (not smelly), can it be washed lightly with a gauze soaked in water, mild soap and water, or a chlorinated solution. Always drying well before closing everything.

When to notify the pediatrician

The stump of the umbilical cord must not make any smell: if you smell bad it must be reported to the pediatrician, who must also be notified if redness appears around the residue, if there are yellowish or bloody secretions, if the child cries and complains when the stump is touched (it means that he is in pain, which should not be there) and if the stump itself does not fall off within two weeks from returning home.

And the bath?

Generally it is advisable not to bathe the baby by immersion, that is, in the tub, until the stump has separated and the scar is dry. A document from the Emilia Romagna Center for Perinatal and Reproductive Health explains: "This precaution would serve to avoid lengthening the time of the stump fall and to prevent some germs from reaching the cord through the bath water and entering the organism of the newborn, however this recommendation is not based on any scientific evidence e it is not universally adopted".
If in doubt, however, in the first few days of life it is better to delay complete immersion, waiting for the stump of the cord to fall.

Sources for this article:

Umbilical cord care from the Healthy Children website of the American association of pediatricians

In-depth analysis of the WebMD website

Insight into the American Mayo Clinic website

Read also: The baby diary of, from 0 to 12 months

Questions and answers

How is the umbilical stump cleaned?      

The most effective treatment to facilitate the rapid detachment of the umbilical cord stump is to simply keep it dry and clean, covered with a gauze, without applying any substance.

How to facilitate the fall of the umbilical cord?      

The umbilical cord stump dries up and heals faster if you can keep it dry. In fact, midwives usually recommend avoiding the bath until it falls.

What happens after the umbilical cord falls out?      

A crust forms in place of the umbilical stump, which can also become covered with a white secretion, due to the effect of white blood cells. The scab will then fall off to make room for the scar.

  • child's agenda
  • umbilical cord care
  • umbilical cord
  • umbilical cord stump
  • residual umbilical cord
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