Caring for your baby’s belly button (‘umbilicus’)

After your baby is born, you’ll need to keep the umbilical stump clean and dry to prevent infection. It will come away naturally, and should then heal completely within seven to ten days.

Sometimes, during the healing process of the belly button (umbilicus), there is an overgrowth of tissue. This is called an umbilical granuloma.

It usually looks like a soft pink or red lump and often is wet or leaks small amounts of clear or yellow fluid. It’s most common in the first few weeks of a baby’s life. The overgrowth of tissue is relatively common and is not dangerous, but does need care.

General care of the umbilicus / belly button:

  • Keep the belly button clean and dry
  • Cleanse the belly button with soap and warm water when it gets soiled with wee or poo
  • Let air get to the belly button area by rolling back the top of the nappy when you can

How is an umbilical granuloma treated?

If your baby has an umbilical granuloma and no obvious infection, then your public health nurse (health visitor) may suggest salt treatment. This has been found to be a very effective and safe treatment, which you can do at home. If the salt treatment has not worked, the granuloma will need to be looked at by your GP.

How to do the salt treatment

Wash and clean your hands or use plastic gloves. Then:

  • Apply a small pinch of table or cooking salt to the umbilical granuloma. Your public health nurse (health visitor) will be happy to show you how to do this
  • Cover the area with a gauze dressing ‘swab’ and hold in place for 10-30 minutes. This may be easiest to do when your baby is asleep
  • Clean the area using a clean gauze dressing soaked in warm boiled water
  • Repeat the procedure twice a day for at least two days

In two or three days, you should notice that the granuloma is getting smaller and possibly changing colour as it heals.

What to do if the salt treatment isn’t working or you think there’s an infection

If the umbilical granuloma doesn’t respond to the salt treatment after one week, see your GP and they will explore further treatment options.

If your baby’s belly button is showing signs of infection, such as redness of the surrounding skin, an offensive smell, discharge or your baby has a fever, get an appointment with your GP as soon as you can.

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