The umbilical cord

As soon as they are born, the doctor or the midwife cuts the cord that linked the embryonic membrane with sterile material and places a plastic clip to prevent it from bleeding. Normally, this small appendix will be attached to the baby’s navel for a couple of weeks, although there is no set time for it to come off. In fact, there are children who drop it after five days and others who take longer. However, if after four weeks the child continues to keep the cord, we recommend that you consult your pediatrician for an examination.

However, during the days when the child has the remains of the umbilical cord on, it is necessary to dedicate certain specific care, since it may be the case that the usual germs on the skin infect the cord that is still unhealed. To avoid this, hygiene is essential. And it is precisely time, that of cleaning the navel, one of the most delicate and that causes greater discomfort in parents.

However, to help you, today we are going to share with you some tips that you should take into account when caring for the navel during these first days of life. You will see that with a little care in a few days the stump will have come off and you can keep the clamp as a souvenir.

When do babies’ umbilical cords fall off?

When the umbilical cord is cut, a stump remains that becomes black and dries until it comes off, what we know as the fall of the navel or cord. But when do babies usually drop their navel? There is no exact date, but the umbilical codon that is clamped in the newborn usually comes off during the second or third week of life.

However, it is possible that the cord does not fall until one month, we can consult the pediatrician to assess the situation. In any case, it should never be stretched to finish detaching the navel, even if the thread to which it has been reduced is very thin since it could cause bleeding.

It may bleed a little when it comes off naturally, but in that case, the bleeding stops on its own immediately. The healing of the remaining wound usually occurs between three and five days after the fall, although in the meantime it is necessary to continue making the cures to achieve perfect drying.

As we saw, slight bleeding in the newborn’s navel is normal, and once the cord has fallen, there may be traces of dried blood in the navel folds. After the fall, cures must continue to be performed because the risk of infection persists until the navel has not completely healed.

Therefore, it is necessary to continue with the same care and vigilance until the process of cicatrization is completed, especially in the so-called “amniotic navels”, in which the skin does not protrude but remains sunken because that makes them less ventilated and it is also more difficult to assess their condition.

In any case, rather than worrying about when the navel will fall, we must pay attention to its correct cure, cleaning, and drying, with the advice we have seen on occasion.

How to clean it

Although there is a belief that a baby cannot be bathed until the cord has been removed, this is not true. Although you can clean the baby as in the cat wash, with a sponge and without the need to immerse him in a bathtub, there is no problem with wetting the cord as long as the navel area is then thoroughly dried.

It is important to try to keep it always clean and dry to favor the fall and prevent infections since the stump can become a focus of infection of the baby’s body.

How to cure it

Regarding whether to use a product and which one or which ones to use to cure the baby’s navel, there are different opinions. There are pediatricians who only recommend keeping it clean and dry, which is enough and will one day fall off anyway, while others suggest using antiseptics twice a day.

The most widespread product to cure the umbilical cord, because it is accessible and cheap, is 70-degree alcohol. Normal alcohol is 90 degrees, but 70 is recommended as it is gentler on the baby’s delicate skin. The cord should be wrapped in sterile alcohol-soaked gauze. Better gauze than cotton because it can leave traces stuck and never apply alcohol directly to the baby’s skin.

We have already talked about other products. For example, Mercurochrome and Mercurobromine (red disinfectant liquid) can be used, but it is not the best. Sometimes used in combination with alcohol, but should not be used simultaneously with products containing iodine. It is not the best choice because although in the amounts applied it is not toxic, it can cause skin sensitization and its coloring does not allow observing if the cord presents any abnormality.

Iodine-based products (povidone-iodine) such as Betadine should not be used as they are not suitable for babies. They are absorbed through the skin and can cause thyroid problems and are therefore prohibited. Sulfamide powders should also not be used as they can cause eczema and do not prevent infection.

A disinfectant that can be used, as recommended by the Spanish Association of Pediatrics, is, in addition to 70-degree alcohol, chlorohexidine, a suitable transparent liquid to avoid infection of the navel.


The cord should be allowed to fall on its own, never tug at it even if it is held by a very fine thread, and we believe that it is about to fall.

Once the cord has fallen, the area should continue to be cleaned until it is completely dry.

When placing the diaper, ensure that the cord and the clamp are covered to prevent it from getting caught in the clothes or when lifting the baby.

Warning signs

Although it is normal for slight bleeding to occur in the newborn’s umbilical cord the first few days and then when it falls, we must monitor it because there are certain signs that may indicate that something is wrong.

A small amount of bleeding may be caused by rubbing the diaper, but it is not normal, for example, active bleeding that soaks the gauze. Hemorrhage, pus, and swelling in the navel area are reasons for consultation with the pediatrician.

Rituals Involving Placenta

The placenta is usually seen as biological waste from childbirth and hospital waste material. However, in other parts of the world, women take the placenta home to perform rituals that are important to them. With different motivations and varied outcomes, the rituals are the burial of the placenta; placentophagy, and lotus birth.

Placental burial was the ritual I liked most, and the only one I would do. It consists of giving a poetic destiny to the placenta: burying it next to a fruit tree, so that the organ that nourished the baby’s life for months ends its existence not as hospital waste, but by completing its function, nourishing a tree and perpetuating itself in the world in a way in the fruits.

Placentophagy is the act of eating the placenta. Practiced by animals, probably because they don’t want to waste nutrients or leave their baby’s trail to predators. There are women who believe that eating your placenta will benefit your nutrition and “strengthen your milk”. There is no scientific evidence that this is true. I particularly find it very weird, but everyone does whatever they want with their placenta so I respect it.

The third ritual is the most bizarre. Lotus delivery is about not clamping the umbilical cord after birth. The woman leaves with her baby and the placenta hanging and allows the cord to break itself – a process that can take up to 10 days. The motivation for this ritual is spiritual. Women who choose lotus delivery believe in a “spiritual connection between the placenta and the baby”, and that cutting the cord would be an abrupt break in this bond that could traumatize the baby.

There is a theoretical risk of infection since the placenta will enter necrosis and will still be linked to the newborn by the cord. There are few studies so far, but a case of hepatitis in the baby caused by lotus birth has been reported in the literature. The smell of the placenta over the days becomes so bad that many women give up waiting and cut the cord 2 or 3 days after delivery.

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