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For years, the standard was to treat the umbilical cord with alcohol. Turns out, there's no real reason to -- a study in the Journal of Obstetric, Gynecologic, and Neonatal Nursing found that alcohol offers no benefit, and that cords left alone fall off around two to three days sooner than those that are treated. To care for your baby's cord stump, keep it clean and dry, but don't panic if it accidentally gets wet -- just dab it gently with a clean cloth. Fold the diaper down to prevent friction and increase airflow, and call your pediatrician if the cord develops an odor, becomes mushy, or is still on at three weeks. --Jennifer L.W. Fink
Originally published in Parents magazine, January 2008. Updated 2009
The answers from our experts are for educational purposes only. Please always refer to your child's pediatrician and mental health expert for more in-depth advice.