Umbilical Cord Falling Off: What to Expect
The umbilical cord is your baby’s lifeline. It’s a temporary connection between you and your baby while your baby is still in the womb. It’s through this cord-like connection that the baby growing inside you gets oxygen and nourishment. The umbilical cord also allows waste products to be removed. Both functions are important for helping your baby grow into a fit and healthy newborn.
The cord attaches to your placenta and connects to your baby, inside the womb, through an opening in your baby’s tummy. The part of a baby’s tummy where the umbilical cord connects is the navel or belly button. Now, you know why you have a belly button!
What happens to the umbilical cord? Once you deliver your baby, he or she will no longer need to get nourishment through the umbilical cord. So, upon delivery, the umbilical cord will be clamped and cut. Don’t worry. Your newborn won’t feel anything since the area around the cord doesn’t have a nerve supply. Once the cord is cut, all that will be left is an umbilical cord stump. You might wonder what happens to the umbilical cord stump that remains after the cord is severed.
Umbilical Cord Falling Off – What to Expect
The umbilical stump that remains after the umbilical cord is cut will eventually fall off on its own. Typically, this happens between one to two weeks after giving birth. Until then, you’ll need to take a few precautions to keep the area clean, dry, and free of infection. Here are some general guidelines for caring for the umbilical stump:
- Keep the stump clean by gently cleansing it with warm water. Do not use soap, cleansers, or alcohol around the area. Until the stump falls off, sponge your baby off with a clean washcloth – no baths. Gently pat dry the stump using a clean, dry washcloth.
- Dress your baby in light, cotton clothing so air can freely circulate. A cotton t-shirt is a good choice. Make sure your baby’s diaper isn’t covering the stump. You can avoid this by folding the diaper down so it isn’t touching the area.
- Don’t use your hands to pull on the stump or otherwise get it to fall off. Allow it to happen naturally.
- Watch the area for signs of infection, including an obvious odor, yellow secretions from the stump, or redness. Fortunately, stump infections are uncommon. It’s not abnormal to have a little bleeding that stops when you apply pressure.
After the stump falls off, you can expect the area to heal in about a week to 10 days. If it doesn’t close within this time frame, talk to your health care provider. They can do a procedure called cauterization if it refuses to heal.
The Bottom Line
As you can see, the umbilical cord has to be cut. It doesn’t actually fall off after delivery. What remains after cutting the cord is an umbilical stump. That will fall off on its own, usually no later than the third week of your baby’s life but often earlier. Until then, focus on keeping the area clean, dry, and open so that air can circulate. Just as importantly, don’t try to pull on the stump or encourage it to fall off more quickly. Let nature do its job.
Mayo Clinic. “Umbilical cord care: Do’s and don’ts for parents”
American Pregnancy Association. “Umbilical Cord Care”