Umbilical Cord Bleeding (Newborn)

In the uterus, the umbilical cord connects the unborn baby to the birth parent. After birth, the cord is no longer needed. It's clamped and then cut. This leaves a small stump.

In most cases, the umbilical cord stump dries up and falls off the newborn within the first few weeks of life. Sometimes, the cord may bleed as it separates from the bellybutton (navel). It may also bleed slightly if it is rubbed by the newborn’s diaper.

Home care

Treating bleeding

To treat umbilical cord bleeding, hold a sterile gauze pad to the cord with gentle pressure as instructed by your child’s healthcare provider. This will usually stop the bleeding.  If bleeding still doesn't stop after applying pressure, call your child’s provider or get treatment right away.

General care

  • Make sure that the baby's diaper does not cover the navel until the cord has fallen off and the area where the cord was attached is dry and healing. This helps the cord dry more quickly. It also prevents contamination from urine and stool.

  • Don’t put your baby in bathwater until the cord falls off. Instead, bathe your baby with a sponge or damp washcloth.

  • Watch for signs of infection (see “When to get medical advice” below).

Follow-up care

Follow up with your child’s healthcare provider as advised.

When to get medical advice

Call your child’s healthcare provider right away if any of these occur:

  • Your child has bleeding from the cord that doesn’t stop even after applying direct pressure as instructed by the provider.

  • Your child has bleeding that is more than the size of a quarter.

  • Your child has a fever of 100.4°F (38°C) or higher, or as directed by the provider. (Get treatment right away. Fever in a young baby can be a sign of a serious infection.)

  • Your child has signs of infection around the cord, such as redness, swelling, or cloudy or foul-smelling drainage.

  • Your child cries or appears to be in pain when you touch the area around the cord and navel.

  • Your child develops a rash, pimples, or blisters around the navel.

  • Your child’s cord doesn't fall off within the time frame given by the provider.

  • Your child seems ill or has any other symptoms that concern you.

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