Susannah Birch is a certified birth doula, journalist, and owner of Trimester Talk, a leading pregnancy website.
Your newborn baby
Everyone has a belly button, but since it never really does much other than just sit in the middle of the stomach or get a piercing, it's often forgotten. However, a belly button is one of the most important things a baby can have up until he/she is born.
The belly button is formed by the mother's placenta connecting to the baby's stomach via the umbilical cord, allowing nutrients, blood, and waste to be transferred as needed between the two.
When a baby is born, the umbilical cord is no longer needed since the baby can live and breathe on his own. So after birth, the umbilical cord is cut, leaving a small stump on the baby's belly.
Since the umbilical cord was a living piece of blood and tissue, cutting it won't immediately form a belly button—the area has to heal over time to become the little skin colored mound we all know.
This is a quick guide to what to expect from your baby's belly button during the first few weeks and months after he/she is born.
After the birth
The baby's cord may be allowed to pulsate for a few minutes as it feeds last minute nutrients to the baby. Then the cord will have a clip placed on it [see photo] and will be cut. The doctor or someone elected by the mother may cut it, such as the father or labour partner.
The clip is normally removed in the first few days after birth or when you leave the hospital.
The first week
During the first week after birth, the umbilical cord will slowly dry up and turn into a black or brown, dry stump. By 7-10 days, this stump should slowly start to loosen, then come off altogether. The resulting belly button will resemble an open sore, but shouldn't look red or infected.
The first few months
The open belly button should slowly close up over the first 2-4 weeks and be completely healed by 2 months at the latest. In rare cases, some belly buttons may take longer to close up.
Caring for the new belly button
Bathing: Some people prefer to give baby a sponge bath until the stump has come off the belly button, however this is completely up to you. I personally gave my baby bath's in a bathtub from two days after she was born. To clean it simply pat around it with a damp cloth.
Touching: Try to avoid touching the belly button until it is healed up. Once the skin has fused, it's fine to touch gently and wash in any folds that it has.
Removing: Don't remove the stump from the baby's navel. It should slowly come off on its own and if you remove it forcibly, chances are you may cause the skin to bleed or rupture.
Nappy time: Fold down the top half of the front of the nappy to avoid irritating the healing belly button.
Clothing: Try to avoid covering the stump too much. Fresh air will help it heal quicker.
- A black or brown stump for the first week.
- An open belly button for several weeks.
- Any shape or size or belly button once it heals. It can range from two folds anywhere to a small hole, inny or outy... it really depends on how the skin heals.
- Redness. Over the first few months the belly button can occasionally become red, due to heat, dryness or too much rubbing in the bath. As long as it returns to its normal colour within 24-48 hours there isn't a problem.
What's not normal?
- Any kind of discharge. If the belly button is bleeding or emitting pus of any type, it's best to see a doctor.
This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
Crist on April 29, 2012:
Is it bad when theres some white discarge after the little stem came off???
Bhavesh on February 11, 2012:
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Bhavesh on February 11, 2012:
My baby's belly buttom bleeding with water. It's age is 1.5 months old. My Pediatric said me that baby's umbilical cord is remain uncut in belly buttom. Plz help me wat to do next ?
AustralianNappies from Australia on March 13, 2011:
nell79 from United States on February 04, 2011:
Lots of good information here. My babies' stumps came off a bit early with some of them (one at five days), but their pediatrician assured me they were fine when I was concerned about it, since they were a bit oozie for about a week after that. I would just gently clean the area with a cotton swab and some rubbing alcohol when it looked like it needed it (per the doctor's advice).
The one thing that really worried me with my last two children was when they had large outies! My youngest daughter's belly button came out so far, I was sure there was something wrong. It was an umbilical hernia and apparently it's not all that uncommon. Hers was minor compared to some pictures I found of the condition on the internet--those were scary. It came out about two inches and was about an inch in diameter. She's six months old now and it looks completely normal. I'd have never guessed that it could do that!
Great info here :)
TPSicotte from The Great White North on January 30, 2011:
thanks. well written and helpful.
Patsy on December 22, 2010:
Just stumbled on your hub and had to say thanks! I've read a lot about babies and infant care, but I'm not sure I've read that much on their chords. Thanks for sharing! Good stuff!
Michael Murchie from Parts Unknown on October 03, 2010:
As a soon to be dad, this is awesome information, many thanks and a rate up :)
Jasnav on August 29, 2010:
Great hub there!
Seems so obvious to all those who've been through it, but it is clearly great information for the newbies!
Free Baby Coupons on August 24, 2010:
You collected great infos about this topic. However it seems so obvious many moms don't really know how to take good care of it. It is a very helpful hub!
Susannah Birch (author) from Toowoomba, Australia on August 23, 2010:
Thank you for the comment. =) Most of what I write about babies is based on my own experience and a dose of logic - and I'm often surprised how helpful people find it.
OddyDahBody on August 23, 2010:
Ive helped in a lot of deliveries and so far im always assigned on baby care. what's written on this hub is practiced in the hospitals and i may say you did a great job writing down the infos. great hub :)