The Bellybutton

Newborns usually go home with the umbilical cord stump still attached to the body, and many parents feel unsure about how to take care of such a strange object. This section describes what to expect to happen with the umbilical stump and how to take care of it.

Care of the Stump

Some parents are apprehensive when it comes to taking care of their baby's umbilical stump. It appears gelatinous and soft at first, but it shrivels up in time. Hospital staff usually advises new parents to clean the stump with alcohol at every diaper change (or several times a day). However, some parents approach the bellybutton too gingerly, and the attachment doesn't get cleaned enough. As a result, the umbilical stump remains attached for a long time, sometimes longer than a month.


If the skin surrounding the bellybutton becomes swollen and red, you need to contact your doctor right away. This could mean an infection of the bellybutton, a serious condition that requires antibiotic treatment.

If you clean it frequently and thoroughly with alcohol, the stump should fall off in two to three weeks. It's perfectly normal if it falls off sooner.

Something Smells Funny

Before the umbilical cord detaches, the tissue dies off gradually. Though this is a natural process, it can smell a little funny. It is not an indication of infection. In fact, there might even be a small amount of yellowish discharge from the stump. As long as the skin surrounding the bellybutton appears normal (that is, there is no redness, no swelling), you do not have to worry about an infection. Cleaning the stump frequently with alcohol-soaked cotton balls will also help with the smell. Even after the umbilical stump falls off, the smell may persist for some time. This is nothing to be concerned about as long as the skin around the bellybutton does not become red or swollen.

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