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Your Baby’s Belly Button

by Sue Hubbard, M.D.

I recently received a picture, via email of course, from a concerned parent who had noted a “growth” on their child’s belly button (umbilicus).  The father actually took the picture and he was the worried one,  as the growth had  appeared when the baby was about 10 weeks of age, and had seemed to be growing over the last several weeks.

Tbellybuttonhe “belly button” is the scar tissue that remains after the umbilical cord drops off. The umbilical cord is made up of blood vessels that are attached to the mother’s placenta. Once a baby is delivered, the cord is cut close to the abdomen and clamped.  The umbilical cord is then typically cleaned with gentian violet to prevent infection. The dried umbilical stump typically falls off of a newborn somewhere around 2 -4 weeks of age.  There are varying opinions on how what to do about cleaning the cord prior to it falling off.

There was an article written several years ago that recommended not cleaning the cord and letting it air dry, and this would shorten the time it took for the stump to drop off.   I still recommend cleaning the base of the cord as it is detaching. I use an alcohol swab to clean the base of the cord to get rid of the “goop” that develops and also the “stinky smell” associated with that. If you don’t, you may wonder why your baby does not have that delightful new baby “smell”.  Once the cord is off you can give your baby a real bath and get them really clean!

If any tissue does not fully detach it can leave a small red, moist mass called an umbilical granuloma. These benign lesions are not apparent at birth, but usually appear shortly after the cord has separated and the extra granulation tissue remains.  In most cases these are easily treated by your pediatrician who will use a silver nitrate swab to cauterize the excess tissue. It usually only takes one or two applications and the issue is resolved. Some people have advocated having parents use twice daily application of table salt to the umbilical cord granuloma, and this may be easily tried at home.

On occasion a larger umbilical granuloma or an umbilical polyp will remain that may require further evaluation and  treatment with the involvement of a pediatric surgeon.

That’s your daily dose.  We’ll chat again soon.

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