On Call: Belly-Button Blues
Q. Our newborn has an umbilical hernia. The doctor said not to worry, but it gurgles when it's pushed on and sometimes turns a bluish color. Should we be concerned?
A. Your doctor's right -- there's no need for concern. I see this all the time (and my oldest child had one, too).
About 20 percent of babies have umbilical hernias, which look like little bulges around the belly button. While a baby is forming in the uterus, his abdominal muscles part in the middle so the umbilical cord can come out of the body; after he's born, the muscles typically come back together. If not, it leaves a space for the intestines to pop out, or "herniate."
Most of these hernias close by themselves, but if your child's hasn't by the time he's 3 or 4, your pediatrician will likely refer you to a surgeon. Fixing the hernia is a simple procedure -- most children can go home the same day following the operation.
Despite their harmless nature, umbilical hernias often worry parents because they can feel gurgly, look funny, and stick out more when a baby cries or strains during bowel movements. Or maybe it's because some grandmothers tell parents to tape coins over them to get them to stay inside (totally unnecessary, and I've seen some terrible rashes from the tape!). The only time you should be concerned is if the hernia becomes hard and red and can't be easily pushed back in -- in which case, your child needs immediate medical attention.