Outie Belly Buttons and Umbilical Hernias in Babies

Close-up of a baby's outie belly button
Jessica Shaver Photography / Getty Images

Whether or not your baby has an innie or an outie belly button is not under your or anyone else's control. It's just chance. There are myths about why outies develop and what can be done, but they are simply that, myths. So long as a belly button isn't painful, keep the area clean and accept that outies are as normal as innies.

In fact, the belly button is really just a scar. If your baby formed some scar tissue underneath the belly button, this could have caused it to protrude and become an outie. If your baby had an umbilical hernia, this could have contributed to an outie belly button, too.

Belly Button Myths

Whether your newborn has an innie or outie has nothing to do with how the umbilical cord was cut — or anything else that happened during childbirth for that matter. 

And despite common folklore, you can't change its shape by strapping something across your baby's belly, or by taping a quarter over it. In fact, there's nothing you can (or should) do to change it. Instead, as your child grows, help him see the beauty of this feature. While an outie belly button is less common, it's no less a part of your child's normal appearance. 

Signs of an Umbilical Hernia

An umbilical hernia occurs when a weakness in the muscle around the umbilicus (belly button) allows the tissues of the abdomen to protrude through the muscle. The umbilical cord, or the cord that delivers nutrients from the mother to the fetus, goes through the abdominal muscles, creating an area where a hernia can easily form.

The defect occurs before the baby is born and is most common among African-American babies and babies born with low birthweight. Umbilical hernias are typically present at birth and may seem to appear and disappear. This is often called a "reducible" hernia.

An umbilical hernia is usually painless; in fact, the only symptom is that the belly button looks swollen or "herniated" outward. If an umbilical hernia becomes strangulated, it can become painful. This is rare, however.

Umbilical hernias typically don't need treatment and usually go away by the baby's first or second birthday. Surgery may be needed to repair it if an umbilical hernia is very big (larger than 2 cm, for example), a hernia is getting bigger, or it has not gone away by age 4 or 5 years.

Caring for Your Newborn's Belly Button Area

Follow these steps to care for your newborn's belly button area:

  • Ask your newborn’s pediatrician about wiping the belly button with alcohol swabs. Some doctors recommend it while others don't.
  • Clean the area using mild soap and water. Ask your pediatrician to recommend safe soaps.
  • Dry the area completely once it has been cleaned.
  • Fold the top edge of the diaper to ensure that it does not cover the belly button area. This will help keep it dry and heal faster.
  • Keep the area dry by giving sponge baths in the first few weeks after birth.
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Article Sources
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  2. Cleveland Clinic. Umbilical Hernia Treatment for Children. Updated March 23, 2017.

  3. John Hopkins Medicine. Umbilical Hernia.

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Umbilical Cord Care. Updated March 3, 2020.