Umbilical hernias range in size from very small to very large, in fact scaring many parents. Reassuringly, even the very big ones go away on their own with time.
Treating Umbilical Hernias
The questions of how and when to treat umbilical hernias have been the source of debate among doctors for years. As a matter of fact, the so-called "outie" belly button is actually a small umbilical hernia which causes no problems even in adulthood. It is also interesting to know that Afro-American children are more prone to umbilical hernias, as are babies born prematurely or with a low birth-weight. In all these cases, as long as the hernia is shrinking, not giving the child any discomfort and baby is well otherwise, no treatment is necessary.
In the past, some umbilical hernias were treated by strapping. Strapping consists of wrapping a belt-like cloth around the waist at the level of the belly button to "push" the hernia back in. Today, strapping is considered ineffective and is not recommended. We know that most (even very large) umbilical hernias will go away on their own certainly by the age of five or six. Having said that, the only possible treatment for all hernias is to surgically repair them. It is generally accepted now that surgical repair of umbilical hernias is not routinely needed unless the intestines twist (strangulation), the hernia persists beyond four or five years of age or starts to grow after the first or second year of life. This of course depends on the individual situation.