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Umbilical Hernia in Children

Medically reviewed by Last updated on Mar 5, 2023.


An umbilical hernia

is a bulge through the abdominal wall in the area of your child's umbilicus (belly button). The hernia may contain fluid, tissue from the abdomen, or part of an organ (such as an intestine). Children that are born prematurely, have a low birth weight, or are African-American, may be at an increased risk for an umbilical hernia.

Common symptoms include the following:

Umbilical hernias usually do not cause any pain. It may disappear when your child is relaxed and lying flat.

  • A bulge or swelling in the area of your child's navel
  • A bulge that gets bigger when your child cries, coughs, strains to have a bowel movement, or sits up
  • Vomiting
  • Constipation
  • Irritability or poor feeding

Seek care immediately if:

  • Your child's hernia gets bigger, is firm, or is blue or purple.
  • Your child's abdomen seems larger, rounder, or more full than normal.
  • Your child stops having bowel movements and stops passing gas.
  • Your child has blood in his or her bowel movement.
  • Your child is crying more than normal or seems like he or she is in pain.

Contact your child's healthcare provider if:

  • Your child has a fever.
  • Your child is vomiting.
  • Your child has trouble having a bowel movement.
  • You have questions about your child's condition or care.

Treatment for your child's umbilical hernia

depends on how severe it is. The hernia may disappear on its own by age 4 to 5. Your child's healthcare provider may be able to manually reduce the hernia. Surgery may be needed if the hernia prevents blood flow to organs, or blocks or causes an intestinal hole.

Care for your child:

  • Give your child liquids as directed. Liquids may prevent constipation and straining during a bowel movement. Ask how much liquid to give your child each day and which liquids are best for him or her.
  • Feed your child foods that are high in fiber. Fiber may prevent constipation and straining during a bowel movement. Foods that contain fiber include fruits, vegetables, legumes, and whole grains.

  • Do not place anything over your child's umbilical hernia. Do not place tape or a coin over the hernia. This may harm your child.

Follow up with your child's healthcare provider as directed:

Write down your questions so you remember to ask them during your visits.

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The above information is an educational aid only. It is not intended as medical advice for individual conditions or treatments. Talk to your doctor, nurse or pharmacist before following any medical regimen to see if it is safe and effective for you.

Further information

Always consult your healthcare provider to ensure the information displayed on this page applies to your personal circumstances.