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Help Your Baby Feel Better

Umbilical Hernia

Some babies have a weakness or small opening in the abdominal wall muscles around the belly button that lets a bit of the intestinal tissue protrude when they cry or cough.

Peak age: Often present at birth but may not become apparent until later -- coughing or straining may cause it to stick out more. More common in premature, low-birth-weight, female, and African-American babies.

What to do: Most cases that appear before 6 months heal on their own by 12 to 18 months. No special home care is needed -- the folklore treatment of binding the infant's abdomen won't help heal the hernia and could be harmful if it's done too tightly. But call the doctor if your baby seems to have severe abdominal pain; surgery may be needed, especially if the hernia is getting bigger at 1 to 2 years old, says Regina Milteer, M.D., a pediatrician at Inova Fairfax Hospital for Children, in Falls Church, Virginia.

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