Our pediatrician said that some doctors say to leave the umbilical cord stump alone but he likes to suggest using a cotton swab with alcohol to wipe the perimeter.

I am fine with just leaving it be so long as it stays clean and dry. Do you think he suggested that solely for cleanliness or does the drying effect of alcohol help it move along to fall off? What did you do for your newborn?


9 Answers 9


You're essentially asking for medical advice online. Use common sense and be critical of what you read.
Always follow your pediatrician's advice rather than what you read online. If you feel you're not confident with his advice, ask another pediatrician.

Having said that, here's what we were told (in 2009):

The stump will dry out and fall off within a few days. Keep it clean (using water and if necessary cotton swabs), and keep it dry (using cosmetic pads to gently wipe the surrounding area, then put baby powder on the stump. No oils or alcohols are needed (but you might have received different advice!).

You're probably right that alcohol dries it faster, but I don't see a reason for doing that. Let nature do it's thing; it's not dangerous and the child has no nerves there so it can't hurt him in any way.

  • 4
    We were repeatedly advised against using baby powder on our child, and not just for the stump. Baby powder, which contains talc, is both a carcinogen and an inhalation risk. It is also worth mentioning that if the stump is not kept dry, it can become infected, so saying it can't hurt him in any way is not strictly true (our son's stump did, in fact, become infected, despite our efforts to keep it dry without the use of alcohol).
    – user420
    Apr 25, 2011 at 0:54
  • Good points to consider. I wasn't aware that talc is a carcinogen. Apr 25, 2011 at 12:11
  • 1
    A lot of what is sold as baby powder these days is not talc but is instead corn starch. At times it looked like you would have to go out of your way to find talc baby powder.
    – Barry
    Apr 26, 2011 at 17:55

From the AAP

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that you keep the stump clean and dry.

  • When changing, arrange the diaper so the stump is not under the diaper, this prevents it from getting wet, and allows it to dry out naturally over time.
  • When cleaning the infant, do not submerse the stump. A sponge bath with a damp cloth is preferred.

The stump should dry out and fall off in a few weeks. There may be a little bloody spotting from the navel at that time, but any active bleeding should be tended to by a doctor immediately.

There is a small risk of infection, if your infant exhibits redness and swelling around the navel, or a yellow smelly discharge from the navel, or your infant cries or seems particularly tender when touched around the navel, you should see a physician.

While there is no harm in dabbing the cord stump with alcohol, there is no benefit to this treatment, and it adds an extra step of care that is unnecessary.


The change from recommending alcohol to not recommending it happened in our hospital around 2005. I imagine some providers still recommend it, and others probably moved away from it much earlier. Having had several children with the alcohol treatment and several without, I haven't noticed a difference. Specifically, the cord stumps didn't fall off noticeably sooner or later under either treatment plan, and we never experienced any infection.

I suspect alcohol treatment may give fussy parents something to do that makes them feel like they have a little control over an unpredictable process.


In March of this year when our little girl was born we've been told to clean gently with 70% alcohol, which we did (a few times a week, not everyday). It took 2 weeks to fall. Doctors advise 70% alcohol because this is still a bleeding open wound and it should be cleaned appropriately.


We were told to just use soap and water when giving the baby a bath. The stump shouldn't bleed and it falls off really soon.


Don't use alcohol, hydrogen peroxide or anything like that. The recommendation your doctor gave is correct:

  • at first, just keep it dry with a cotton wool swab
  • after a couple of days, you can wash it along with baby, with water on a cotton wool swab.

Don't pick at it or use anything harsh and it will look after itself.


People are divided on whether to use alcohol to clean the stump area. We didn't. We just used a bit of clean cotton wool and warm water once it had dried properly. I remember finding tiny bits of dried blood in there several weeks later, apparently not causing her any problems.

The following links have some sensible sounding advice:

To summarise:

  • Fold down the nappy to allow air to reach the naval
  • Avoid getting any urine or faeces on it
  • Consult a doctor if the area looks infected (eg: adjacent red skin or bad smell)

Our midwife wrapped what was left of the cord in some gauze soaked in alcohol. After a while (a few days) it fell off and the rest of it dried up.


To make this recent, as of this time it is advised by doctors to make sure that the stump is dry at all times. When giving baby a bath, make sure it does not get wet. When it does, gently wipe it dry with soft cotton. Do not forget to also wipe dry the inner edges. Eventually it will dry up and fall on its own. Note that if it gives off a smell and pus comes out of it, please contact your doctor right away.


I used what was advised by the pediatrician: Chlorophyllin and Viridis nitentis (both as alcoholic solutions).

The stump fell off in 15 days.

  • 1
    This seems like overkill. Oct 8, 2013 at 8:29

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