After your baby is born, your midwife or doctor will clamp and then cut their umbilical cord.

A small amount of the cord, about 2 to 3 cm long, will stay attached to your baby’s belly button. This is known as the cord stump.

Over the next 7 to 14 days, the stump will get darker, dry out, shrivel and eventually fall off. A small wound will remain, which will heal and become your baby’s belly button.

Keep the stump clean

Keep your baby’s cord stump clean and dry while it heals.

  • Wash your hands before you touch their stump, and before and after nappy changes.
  • Wash their stump with plain water, you don’t need to use soap, creams or antiseptic ointment to keep it clean.
  • Gently pat the stump dry with a towel or soft cloth after their bath and make sure it's dry.
  • If the weather isn't too cold, fold their nappy down so it doesn’t cover the cord and can air dry.
  • If the stump gets poo or wee on it, wash it off with clean water, or soap and dry it as normal.
  • Don’t pull on the stump – it’ll fall off by itself.

When the stump falls off

When the cord stump falls off, you can throw it in the bin.

Continue to wash your hands before you touch your baby’s belly button area, and keep the wound clean, dry and airy.

It’s normal for the belly button wound to look a bit mucky or to have a red spot where the cord used to be. It might smell or have a clear, sticky brownish ooze. This is part of the healing process and won’t cause your baby any pain.

To clean any ooze, wet a cotton bud with warm water and gently dab, making sure it doesn’t bleed. Use a new cotton bud each time and throw it away.

It may take up to 7 days to heal completely.

When to seek help

See your GP if you notice:

  • your baby has a fever or high temperature
  • redness or streaking around the belly button and it's tender and warm to touch
  • a cloudy ooze that doesn’t clear up after you clean the area
  • your baby is sleepy, doesn’t want to feed as normal, or seems unwell.

If you're not sure whether to go to an emergency department, call 13 HEALTH (13 43 25 84) and speak to a registered nurse.

Developed by the Division of Medicine, Queensland Children’s Hospital. We acknowledge the input of consumers and carers.

Resource ID: FS269. Reviewed:  May 2023.

Disclaimer: This information has been produced by healthcare professionals as a guideline only and is intended to support, not replace, discussion with your child’s doctor or healthcare professionals. Information is updated regularly, so please check you are referring to the most recent version. Seek medical advice, as appropriate, for concerns regarding your child’s health.

Last updated: December 2023