Sweat, dirt, bacteria and lint from your clothing can accumulate in your belly button and cause an unpleasant odor. Newborn babies’ umbilical cord stumps often give off a slight odor during the first few weeks of life as their belly buttons heal as well. Most of the time, your belly button should not require any special cleaning other than your normal showering, but if you have persistent problems with odor you may need to give your navel some extra attention.
Wash your belly button with warm water and salt, recommends Margaret Steam, M.D. Add about 1 tbsp. of salt in a small bowl of warm water. Use your fingertip to gently massage the salt water into your navel or dab it with a soft washcloth.
Rinse your navel area thoroughly and dry it with a clean towel or cotton balls. Use a hairdryer on a low heat setting to dry your belly button if you have trouble removing all of the excess moisture.
Refrain from applying lotion or creams to your navel area, unless your doctor recommends using an antibacterial cream. Excess moisture can contribute to the growth of fungi, which could result in an infection and persistent odor.
Dip a cotton ball in rubbing alcohol and gently swab it over your newborn’s umbilical cord stump once or twice a day to minimize odor, recommends Carol A. Miller, a pediatrician and clinical professor of pediatrics at the University of California in San Francisco.