The umbilical cord carries oxygen and nutrients from the placenta into your baby’s blood.
After the birth, your midwife or obstetrician will cut the umbilical cord. This will leave a stump on your baby where the umbilical cord is cut. You need to take special care of this area until the stump falls off.
How the umbilical cord is cut
Your midwife or obstetrician will put a clamp on the umbilical cord about 3 cm to 4 cm (1.5 to 2 inches) from the belly button. They put a plastic clip further up the cord.
The cord is then cut between the clips, leaving a stump of 2 cm to 3 cm (1 to 1.5 inches). There are no nerve endings in the cord so this procedure is not painful for you or your baby.
Your baby’s umbilical cord stump will fall off by itself about 5 to 15 days after birth.
Before the stump falls off
Until your baby’s umbilical cord stump falls off:
- wash your hands before and after you touch the cord
- clean around the base of the cord if needed with cotton wool and cooled boiled water
- keep the belly button area dry after you clean it
- inspect the umbilical cord at every nappy change to make sure there is no redness there
- fold your baby’s nappy down, away from the stump
- make sure that the nappy is not covering the cord
After the stump falls off
Non-urgent advice: Ask your midwife, public health nurse or GP for advice if:
- you notice any bleeding or discharge from your baby's belly button
- there is any redness of the skin on your baby’s stomach around the belly button
This may be a sign of infection.