The umbilical cord supplies a fetus with nutrients from the mother. Once the baby is born, it no longer needs the umbilical cord to provide its nutrients, and so doctors cut the cord. Eventually, the cord dries out and falls off, leaving behind a belly button in its place.
Read on to find out why a newborn's belly button may bleed, how to take care of the area, and when bleeding from a newborn's belly button may need medical attention.
Reasons why a newborn's belly button may bleed
It is not uncommon for a newborn's belly button to bleed.
Most cases of belly button bleeding are natural.
Many parents and caregivers may notice a small area of bleeding at the point where the newborn's umbilical cord begins to separate from the body.
Sometimes a newborn's diaper or even a piece of clothing may rub against the umbilical cord. This can irritate the area and cause bleeding as well.
How to care for the umbilical cord stump
To stop a newborn baby's belly button bleeding, hold a piece of clean gauze gently but firmly over the belly button area. A doctor should evaluate any bleeding that does not stop with gentle pressure.
Caring for the umbilical cord stump properly can help prevent or reduce belly button bleeding. A new parent or caregiver can care for a newborn's umbilical cord stump by:
- Keeping the area dry. Keeping the umbilical cord stump dry can help the remaining cord dry out and fall off.
- Giving the baby a sponge bath while the cord stump is still attached. Instead of submerging the baby's body in water, use sponge baths to wash the newborn to keep the area dry.
- Exposing the area to air. Keeping the stump uncovered for a little time each day can help it dry out.
- Changing the baby's diapers regularly. A clean, dry diaper should prevent urine or stool from reaching the umbilical area and can help prevent infection.
- Letting the cord fall off on its own. Pulling at the stump or trying to remove the stump before it is ready to fall off can cause pain and bleeding and may lead to an infection.
What not to do
Diapers can irritate the belly button.
While the stump is healing, avoid:
- Covering the area with a diaper. A diaper can rub and irritate the area. Many diapers for newborns are cut lower at the front, so do not cover the belly button area. However, where this is not the case, fold the diaper down in the front so that it does not touch the stump or surrounding area.
- Rubbing alcohol on the stump. Rubbing alcohol may delay the cord from drying out. Most doctors do not recommend applying alcohol to a baby's umbilical stump unless there is a specific reason for doing so.
- Tying anything around the cord. This can prevent the area from drying or cause injury to the baby.
How long does the cord stump remain in place?
According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, most babies will lose their cord stumps in 10 to 14 days.
However, it is not unusual for a baby's umbilical cord to fall off as early as 1 week after birth or as late as 3 weeks after birth.
It is typical for a baby's umbilical cord to fall off before or after this time frame as well.
When to see a doctor
A doctor can assess a newborn for signs of infection.
Most of the time, newborn belly button bleeding is normal. However, if the bleeding is hard to stop or if there is more than just a few drops of blood, take the baby to see a pediatrician.
Also, a doctor needs to examine a newborn's belly button if there are any signs of infection, including:
- pus or cloudy, foul-smelling drainage from the belly button area
- red, warm skin surrounding the umbilical cord stump area
- a fever of over 100.4°F
- the belly button area seems painful to the touch
While a bleeding belly button can cause alarm to new parents, some newborn belly button bleeding is nothing to worry about.
Slight bleeding from the umbilical cord stump is generally not serious and usually resolves within the first few weeks after birth.
In rare cases, newborn belly button bleeding can indicate the baby has an infection at the site of the umbilical cord stump. If a newborn shows any signs of infection, take the baby to the pediatrician immediately.