Your newborn's umbilical cord stump should shrivel within a week of your arrival home. It will take one to two weeks to fall off completely. Meanwhile, although your mom may have told you to dab the umbilical cord stump with alcohol, the latest research shows that alcohol doesn't do much to prevent infection. In fact, using alcohol on your newborn's belly button might even extend the time it takes for the cord to fall off. Hospital staffs typically recommend letting the umbilical cord air-dry. You don't have to worry about getting the stump wet if you bathe your baby either; gently pat it dry when the bath is over.
During the time your baby has this little reminder of his connection to you, secure his diaper so that it doesn't rub on the stump and irritate it: Fold the top of the diaper over so that it rests an inch below the stump. If, after a few weeks, the stump is still there but is dangling by a thread, your doctor can painless snip off the remains during your baby's one-month checkup. It's normal for your baby's belly button to have a little brown pigment inside it, even after the cord falls off completely.
Umbilical cord stumps rarely become infected. However, if you notice swelling, pus, redness, or a strong odor around the navel, see your baby's pediatrician. She can treat the area with a silver nitrate antiseptic to dry it out.
Originally published in You & Your Baby: Pregnancy.
All content on this Web site, including medical opinion and any other health-related information, is for informational purposes only and should not be considered to be a specific diagnosis or treatment plan for any individual situation. Use of this site and the information contained herein does not create a doctor-patient relationship. Always seek the direct advice of your own doctor in connection with any questions or issues you may have regarding your own health or the health of others.