The umbilical cord links the mother's placenta to an opening in her baby's stomach.
Oxygen, nutrients, and antibodies are carried to the baby through a vein and any waste products are carried away, normally via two arteries. Occasionally there may only be one artery.
After birth, the cord is clamped near the placenta and near the baby's navel and then the cord is cut (by the birth partner if they choose to).
There are no nerves in the umbilical cord so it doesn't hurt the baby.
Some people believe that this clamping should be delayed for a few minutes after birth to boost iron levels in the baby's blood.
An umbilical cord stump will remain on the baby. This will dry out, darken, and fall off after 5 to 15 days.
It is perfectly safe to bath a baby before the umbilical cord has dropped off.
There will be a small wound for up to 10 further days, which can leave a bit of blood on the baby's nappy, but this is nothing to worry about.
Parents should be careful to keep the navel clean and dry until the area has fully healed. They should always wash their hands before and after nappy changes.
Nappies can be folded down to allow air to circulate around the stump to promote faster healing.