Belly buttons come in all sorts of shapes and sizes. They are unique attributes of every individual.
Their shape can be horizontal or vertical, and they may be very narrow and elongated. Others can be rounded and deep – referred to as an “innie”, or stick out, commonly called an “outie”. Many other shapes exist as well.
Even though most babies are born with their belly buttons tucked in, a small percentage are blessed with outies.
Actually, I had never heard of “outies” or “innies” until my youngest daughter was born, and her belly button was fully exposed.
As I recall, it was the first time I have ever seen an outie, and I wasn’t sure what to make of it. Especially that my older daughter had a “normal” looking belly button.
But what is really a normal-looking belly button?
Do I have to worry if my baby has one sticking out?
Should I flatten it or fix it in any way? Can it go in at all?
Let’s discuss everything you need to know about an outie belly button.
Why Is My Baby’s Belly Button Sticking Out?
There is no standard defining the “normal” shape of a belly button. Although a great majority of babies are born with an “innie” shaped navel, around 10% of babies have a protruding belly button. The belly button is just the remnant of the umbilical cord that connects a baby to her mother. The protruding belly button results from how the skin tissue healed after the umbilical cord was cut after birth. The shape of this scar cannot be predicted, nor will it change over time. Unless there is a medical condition present such as umbilical hernia or a granuloma, there is absolutely no need for concern about outie. As such, if you have any doubts about your baby’s outie and suspect it could be one of these two conditions, you should consult a paediatrician.
1. Belly Button vs Umbilical Cord?
A belly button is a common name for navel or umbilicus. It is basically the scar left behind the former umbilical cord connecting the baby to the placenta in the uterus.
The umbilical cord plays a crucial role in the development of a baby during pregnancy. It delivers oxygen and nutrients to the baby via blood vessels and removes carbon dioxide.
It is no longer needed once the baby is born, as she can breathe, eat, and digest independently.
Therefore, the doctor (or perhaps the baby’s dad) cuts the cord immediately after the birth, leaving a short stump still attached to your baby’s abdomen.
The umbilical cord does not have any nerves, so your baby won’t feel any pain during this procedure.
Now, your job is to take care of this remaining stalk by keeping it clean and dry until it heals, turns black, and eventually falls off. This usually happens in the first two weeks of your baby’s life.
Once it’s gone – this is the moment of truth.
This is when the belly button of your precious one is finally revealed!
2. What Causes My Baby’s Belly Button to Stick Out?
There is a common misconception that the outie is formed due to the following reasons:
- the way the cord was cut;
- the length of the stump left;
- by the way, parents handled the stump before it fell off.
There is no scientific evidence supporting either of these theories. Which makes me also highly sceptical whether any of it is true.
The outie-shaped belly button is formed when the leftover portion of the umbilical cord pops out rather than integrate into the body.
The outie is a result of how the skin tissue healed after the cut.
When there is enough space between the skin and stomach muscle to accommodate an umbilical stump – the navel will likely become an innie. If there isn’t much room for that – the belly button will most likely pop out.
Other factors that may impact the shape of the belly button are the looseness of the surrounding skin or the amount of fat under the skin.
3. Does The Belly Button Ever Change Shape?
After all, it is a scar, so no, the belly button won’t naturally change shape in babies.
Well, except for one circumstance and in female adults only – during pregnancy.
Some pregnant women experience their belly button popping out temporarily during the last trimester of pregnancy. As the baby grows, the uterus expands and pushes the abdomen forward, changing the innie shaped belly button into an outie.
This is perfectly normal and common to happen.
The navel usually goes back to its usual shape a few months post-delivery.
4. What Can I do to Flatten An Outie?
You may also have heard another myth stating that you can prevent an outie by strapping a coin over your baby’s belly button.
Do not follow this old wives’ tale. It could actually harm your baby, so please do not do it!
The fact is – there is nothing you can do to change an outie to an innie, except for plastic surgery, of course.
Nor there is anything you can do to prevent it. The shape of your baby’s navel is totally unpredictable and outside your control.
It is definitely not a good idea to try to push the outie in!
The protruding navel is not a medical condition but a purely cosmetic one. You don’t have to do anything about it. It is totally normal and doesn’t need to be “fixed”.
5. When Is Outie Not Normal?
Having said that sticking out belly buttons are totally normal, there are rare occasions when your child may develop a condition that needs to be treated.
5.1. Umbilical Hernia
An Umbilical hernia occurs when the opening in abdominal muscles that connects the umbilical cord to the newborn’s abdomen doesn’t naturally close after the birth.
Therefore, fat, fluid, or even a portion of the baby’s small intestine may get caught in these openings when the muscles don’t close tightly. The result is a soft bulge of tissue that looks like an outie or swollen belly button.
The reason the opening doesn’t close on certain occasions is unknown at this moment.
The size of a hernia may vary. Some can only be detected when the baby coughs or cries – others can be of the size of a plum.
It is not uncommon for babies to have an umbilical hernia at birth. It generally isn’t dangerous, painful, or uncomfortable for your baby and doesn’t need any treatment.
Hernias normally get smaller as the child grows and should completely go away by itself by 18 months.
However, when a hernia doesn’t close by the age of 5 or doesn’t appear to decrease by the second birthday, your child may need a simple surgical procedure to repair it. Nevertheless, this is a rare occurrence, happening in only 15% of children with hernias.
If your child experiences symptoms such as tenderness, pain, swelling or discolouration of hernia – surgery may be required urgently.
Therefore, if you suspect your little one has a hernia, you should consult a doctor who can diagnose it based on a simple physical examination.
5.2. Umbilical Granuloma
Umbilical Granuloma is one of the most common umbilical conditions in infants.
A granuloma can appear after the umbilical stump has fallen off as a small red overgrowth on the belly button.
This type of infection is usually wet and can leak yellowish discharge. It can also prevent the growth of healthy skin tissue.
It is a relatively minor condition that shouldn’t cause your baby any pain or discomfort.
Granulomas usually heal naturally and don’t require any medical attention. Of course, your doctor can advise you on that.
Despite not knowing what causes granulomas, scientists believe they develop if the umbilical stump does not dry off within two weeks after birth.
If your baby is diagnosed with granuloma, you should ensure that the navel area is clean and dry. The nappy should be placed below the belly button to prevent pressing or rubbing against the umbilical stump.
However, if your child shows symptoms of infection such as fever, pus leaking from granuloma, or redness around the belly button, you should consult a paediatrician.
Final Few Words
Unless your baby develops a hernia, granuloma, or infection of her belly button – a sticking out belly button is absolutely normal.
So, no need to worry if your little one was born with protruding naval.
It is just the way a belly button looks – a unique feature of every human being.