About Your Baby's Umbilical Cord

What's this clamp on my baby's cord?

Umbilical Clamp

Just after delivery, when the nurse puts ID bands on your baby, she also puts a clamp on the umbilical cord that holds a plastic device with numbers on it. This clamp does not hurt the baby. The umbilical cord doesn't have any nerves in it. It feels just like putting a clip in your hair. Moving the clamp around is like moving your hair around. It really doesn't hurt.

The device with numbers on it is like the security tags that stores put on clothes and electronics. If your baby gets near an exit or elevator with the clamp on, alarms will be set off. We don't want any babies stolen, ever.

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How do I take care of my baby's cord?

Umbilical Stump

On the first day, the umbilical stump will be white, soft and wet, but pretty soon it will dry up. There are no nerves in the umbilical cord, so it doesn't hurt to move it around. When you leave for home, the nurse takes the cord clamp off. The stump should look like an old dry scab.

As long as the stump stays dry, you don't need to do anything to it. If your baby has a soaked diaper, and the cord gets wet, then you can dab a little rubbing alcohol on it to dry it out. Otherwise, leave it alone.

Once the cord is off, you can put the baby in a bath.

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When will the umbilical cord come off?

Cord Off

There are three major blood vessels in the umbilical cord. They lead to major body organs. They need to separate before the cord stump will come off. It can take a week or two for the vessels to separate. When they do, you may see some streaks of blood on your baby's belly, diaper or shirt. You may see the blood several times because each of the three vessels need to separate. The blood should be just streaks, and certainly no bigger than a dime.

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Thanks to Janelle Aby MD, Stanford School Of Medicine, Newborn Nursery, and Lucille Packard Children's Hospital for the use of occasional photographs.