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Umbilical Hernias: Not Just An Outtie Belly Button

If you’ve worried that your baby’s belly button looks a little funny and sticks out, it may be an umbilical hernia. Most belly buttons that people think are “out-ties” are in actuality hernias.

What is an umbilical hernia?

Technically, the umbilicus (belly button) is what’s left from where mom and baby were connected by the umbilical cord when mom was pregnant. So when baby is delivered and the cord is cut, there is a little stump left. When the remaining cord falls off, if there is a remaining out pouching or bulge at the belly button then there is a hernia.

What causes umbilical hernias?

The abdominal wall has muscles that run vertically. Usually when a baby has an umbilical hernia, the muscles haven’t quite come together all the way and there is a little “defect” or gap. Other “defects” or problems with the abdominal wall can cause hernias, but those causes in babies are rare (and certainly something your pediatrician will talk to you about).

How do you treat umbilical hernias?

The vast majority of umbilical hernias resolve on their own. The muscles grow together and the gap closes up on its own. This process can take months to years. In the meantime, do nothing. Resist the urge to put anything on it or tape it down (this is a terrible, potentially dangerous, wives tale passed on from well-meaning grandparents). If your child is among the few that don’t resolve (if it was a huge hernia), the ultimate treatment is surgical closure. The surgery is for umbilical hernias that don’t resolve is usually a quick few stitches to close it up. In rare situations, the defect may be so big that the surgeon may have to use a mesh or device to help close the gap.

How worried should I be?

Umbilical hernias are something I see multiple times a day. They are really common and most of them resolve on their own. Generally speaking, they are no big deal. On a worry scale of 1-10 (where 1 means don’t worry and 10 means freak out), umbilical hernias are a 1.

Thanks to my patient’s mom who let me take a pic of her baby’s belly to show you a great pic of an umbilical hernia.