A newborn's belly button, which contains the umbilical cord stump, should be kept dry until the stump falls off at approximately 1 to 2 weeks of age. During this time, parents should give newborns sponge baths to keep the umbilical cord stump dry and allow the belly button area to be exposed to air as much as possible, according to the American Pregnancy Association.
The umbilical cord stump, attached to the belly button, should be allowed to heal naturally during the first two weeks. It may appear to be purplish or black until it falls off completely. If the umbilical cord stump or the belly button area appears to be red, swollen or oozes discharge that is yellow or white, it may indicate an infection, and parents should seek medical attention for the child. If the cord is bleeding, the American Pregnancy Association recommends seeking medical attention as well. Once the umbilical cord stump falls off, parents can clean the belly button area by placing the newborn in a baby bath and gently washing the area with water and baby soap using a soft wash cloth. The water should be kept warm, but not hot, and comfortable for the child.