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What Do You Do With an Infant's Belly Button Problem?

By Jacqueline Alzaim ; Updated June 13, 2017

Many parents worry about their newborn’s umbilical cord stump. With some simple guidelines, you can provide adequate care for it to heal promptly. Watch for signs of infection, and learn about potential problems that may arise as the umbilicus heals. Always follow your pediatrician’s advice.

Caring for the Umbilical Cord

Keep the cord stump clean and exposed to air in order to dry out. Some pediatricians recommend swabbing the cord stump with alcohol twice a day until the stump falls off. According to a 2006 article in “American Family Physician”, you should not put rubbing alcohol on your baby’s cord stump. The stump may heal faster if left alone to dry out.

Signs of Infection

Signs that your baby’s cord stump may be infected include redness, swollen or bleeding skin and foul smelling pus drainage. Infection of the cord stump is known as omphalitis. Pediatricians usually treat omphalitis with antibiotics.

Umbilical Granuloma

An umbilical granuloma is a common harmless abnormality persisting after the umbilical stump heals. It appears as a solid red mass approximately 3 to 10 millimeters in size. Clear fluid may drain out of it. According to pediatric surgeon Dr. Gad Lotan, “the most common treatment for umbilical granuloma is topical application of concentrated silver nitrate solution.” It may also be cauterized.

Umbilical Hernia

An umbilical hernia is a defect in the abdominal wall that allows organs to protrude outward when the baby strains or cries. It is covered with skin. It seems to occur more frequently in premature and black babies. It usually resolves by 3 years of age or may be treated surgically.

Belly Button Leaks Urine

When your baby’s belly button leaks urine, the disorder is known as persistent or patent urachus. It is due to an open connection between the bladder and the umbilicus. The treatment is surgical repair.


An omphalocele is similar to an umbilical hernia, but there is no skin covering the organs. The organs are in a thin sac and protrude through the umbilical opening outside the body. It is called gastroschisis if there is no sac. An omphalocele is a serious condition that will be treated before your newborn leaves the hospital.

When to Call the Pediatrician

Regarding the umbilical stump, if there are any signs of infection or active bleeding, contact your pediatrician immediately.

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