Oh the mysteries of a newborn’s belly button. The little dip in one’s stomach that entertains little ones and creates conversation as to their early in utero development.
What exactly is the belly button?
In utero, the placenta and the fetus are connected via an umbilical cord. The umbilical cord delivers nutrients to the fetus. After your baby is born, the doctor clamps the umbilical cord and cuts it (or your partner cuts it.). There is a 2-3 inch remnant left after the cut. The mother delivers the placenta, and the rest of the umbilical cord. The placenta is also known as the afterbirth.
The next few days, what remains of your baby’s umbilical cord dries out. Enzymes dissolve the connection at the base of the cord and one day (typically 2 or so weeks post birth, varies by child) – the cord falls off. Skin grows over the area and then you have a belly button!
There are 2 different situations that I’ve run across with baby belly buttons that should be brought to the attention of a doctor. Both of which may or may not require treatment but worth noting to an M.D.
Umbilical Hernia – A Protruding Outie Belly Button
Our first child Z seemed to have all types of random complications. Thankfully she is now a healthy 8 year old, but that first year was a tough one. With all the various crazy things we went through, one thing I just guess I didn’t think about was her funny looking belly button. That was something I didn’t think about UNTIL Grandpa said, why does your baby girl have a penis on her belly (leave it to MY father to say that!). WHAT?! My girl does NOT have a penis, thanks GRANDPA.
But uhm, it kind of looked like a little wee penis – right smack in stomach. WTH!
So off to the doctor we went. We found out that the penis-looking thing on her stomach was a hernia, an umbilical hernia. About 20% of babies get some form of this, though her’s did look pretty bad. As long as our daughter was comfortable and the area wasn’t tender or extremely swollen and the bulge was soft – we were good. It took about 14 months, but her belly button finally looked normal and non-penis like! Fortunately, she was able to go through her second bikini season with a normal belly button. *sarcasm*
Omphalitis – Belly Button Infection
With our third child, his belly button stump fell off what seemed early – within the first week home after birth. I didn’t think anything about it until it started looking weird and infected.
Fortunately it ended up as nothing much. But researching, come to find out – while rare – newborn belly buttons can become infected. You should watch for redness, warmth and what seems like pain in the belly button region.
Like many bacterial infections, omphalitis is more common in those patients who have a weakened or deficient immune system or who are hospitalized and subject to invasive procedures. Therefore, infants who are premature, sick with other infections such as blood infection (sepsis) or pneumonia, or who have immune deficiencies are at greater risk. Infants with normal immune systems are at risk if they have had a prolonged birth, birth complicated by infection of the placenta (chorioamnionitis), or have had umbilical catheters.
Clinically, neonates with omphalitis present within the first two weeks of life with signs and symptoms of infection (cellulitis) around the umbilical stump (redness, warmth, swelling, pain), pus from the umbilical stump, fever, fast heart rate (tachycardia), low blood pressure (hypotension), somnolence, poor feeding, and yellow skin (jaundice). Omphalitis can quickly progress to sepsis and presents a potentially life-threatening infection. In fact, even in cases of omphalitis without evidence of more serious infection such as necrotizing fasciitis, mortality is high (in the 10% range). Source: wikipedia.com
The last thing us new moms want to worry about? Our kids’ belly buttons! Crazy, but things to be aware of.