There are several ways to care for the remaining portion of a baby's umbilical cord. The staff in some hospitals may apply an antibacterial substance called triple dye to a newborn's cord stump to help prevent infection and to help it dry out more quickly. (You'll know if this was used if your baby's cord is purple-blue in color.) Other physicians may instruct parents to apply antibiotic ointment or rubbing alcohol with a swab to baby's cord area during diaper changes to help inhibit infection.
Because recent studies have shown that letting the cord dry on its own works just as well, some doctors prefer dry care, says Shu. Whether you use this cord-care method or another one, you'll be told to clean the umbilical area with a washcloth -- using a little soap and water (no bathtubs for baby just yet) -- when the stump gets dirty. It's easiest to use newborn diapers with a semicircle cut out at the waist, or you could just fold down the top portion of the diaper.