Delayed Umbilical Cord Separation

Dr. Alan Greene answers the question, Why hasn't my baby's umbilical cord fallen off yet?


My newborn's umbilical cord doesn't look like it's going to fall off, even though it's now been over four weeks! Is this normal?


The average age for the cord to fall off is about 2 weeks. But I often see kids whose cords fall off later. The most important thing to watch out for is signs of infection, such as hard, reddened skin around the base. If her skin around the cord looks normal, then usually nothing more needs to be done. But it's wise for a pediatrician to take a look to be sure everything is fine. Pediatricians will sometimes put a dab of silver nitrate on it around 4 weeks of age if it hasn't fallen off, to hasten the drying.

Putting rubbing alcohol on your baby's umbilical cord does help prevent infection. But oddly enough, some studies indicate that alcohol actually slows cord separation by killing the normal bacteria that live around it. One study that looked at a lot of different things for cord cleaning found that cleaning with water alone resulted in the fastest cord separation.

The information on this Web site is designed for educational purposes only. It is not intended to be a substitute for informed medical advice or care. You should not use this information to diagnose or treat any health problems or illnesses without consulting your pediatrician or family doctor. Please consult a doctor with any questions or concerns you might have regarding your or your child's condition.

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