My Child Has... Article

My Child Has...

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Umbilical Cord, Delayed Separation


When will the cord fall off?

Although most umbilical cords fall off between 10 and 14 days of age, an occasional cord may stay 3 weeks. Cords can also hang by a strand of tissue for 2 or 3 days. Eventually, they all fall off by themselves, so be patient.

How can I take care of my child?

The usual advice is to clean the base of the cord (where it attaches to the skin) with rubbing alcohol twice a day. To do this properly, you must lift the cord stump away from the body surface. Recent studies showed that cords fall off 2 days earlier if allowed to heal naturally without any alcohol. Therefore if the cord is still attached at 2 weeks of age, stop using alcohol. Prior to that, do use alcohol to prevent cord infections. Also help the cord dry faster by keeping the diaper folded below it. If you are using disposable diapers, you can cut a wedge out of the diaper with scissors so the cord is not covered.

When should I call my healthcare provider?

Call during office hours if:

  • The cord is still attached after 3 weeks.
  • You have other concerns or questions.

Written by B.D. Schmitt, MD, author of "Your Child's Health," Bantam Books.
Published by RelayHealth.
Last modified: 2004-03-29
Last reviewed: 2010-06-02

This content is reviewed periodically and is subject to change as new health information becomes available. The information is intended to inform and educate and is not a replacement for medical evaluation, advice, diagnosis or treatment by a health care professional.

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