An umbilical hernia is a navel that bulges or "pops out" with crying or straining. The bulge may disappear when your baby is quiet. If you feel the area with your finger, you will find a small round opening or ring in the muscles of the abdominal wall. During pregnancy, the umbilical cord's blood vessels passed through this ring. Normally it closes off after birth. Umbilical hernias are very common. They are not painful and they never break. Most close spontaneously by school age. Half of the persistent ones close by adolescence.
If you're certain your child has an umbilical hernia, here's what you need to know:
- First: Most hernias close by themselves. No treatment is needed unless the hernia persists beyond age 5 or 6. At that age, big hernias can be repaired surgically. The child can usually come in the hospital and go home the same day as the surgery. A big hernia can be defined as one where the defect is larger than 1 inch across or the bulging appearance causes a cosmetic problem. The smaller hernias usually continue to close spontaneously.
- Second: Avoid covering the hernia with tape, a coin, or a "belly band". This does not speed healing but can lead to a skin rash or infection.
- Third: Crying does not make them bigger or last any longer. Do not give in to your child's unreasonable crying. Some crying is part of normal childhood.
If you think your child's umbilical hernia may need to be seen, call your healthcare provider for advice.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 6/1/2000
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.