Will Your Baby Have an Outie Belly Button?

Curious if your baby will have an innie or outie belly button? Read on to learn how baby's belly button is formed and if outie belly buttons are ever cause for concern.

Newborn baby being held

Anthon Jackson / Stocksy

If you're expecting a child, you probably have many questions. From "what sex will my unborn baby be" to "is it safe to exercise during pregnancy," being inquisitive during this period is common, especially if this is your first go. But many parents have cosmetic questions, too. Some parents want to know what color eyes their child will have, or if their hair will be curly or straight. Others want to know about baby's belly button. (Yes, really.) And this is one mystery that isn't settled until your little one is a few weeks old. You won't know if your child is going to have an innie or outie belly button until their umbilical cord "stump" falls off, approximately two to three weeks after birth.

But does it matter, really? Aesthetics aside, is there a difference between innie and outie belly buttons? Here's everything you need to know about your babe-uns belly button and, particularly, outies.

What Is an Outie Belly Button?

Belly buttons can take on various appearances and shapes. Most are what people refer to as innies, which is when the belly button is inverted or concave, but some belly buttons have a little piece of flesh that sticks out, forming what an outie belly button. Belly buttons can be more or less concave—some form deeper indentations than others—and belly button openings can look round or more like a vertical or horizontal slit.

How Common Are They?

Outie belly buttons are less common than innie belly buttons, though there isn't much scientific data to prove this. A research team at North Carolina State University surveyed 340 people about their belly buttons and found that only 4% had outie belly buttons. An older, informal poll from MSBNC found 88% of people had innie belly buttons. In other words, having an outie belly button is not the most unusual thing in the world, but it's far less common than having an innie.

What Causes an Outie Belly Button?

Soon after your little one is born, the umbilical cord—which connected your baby to the placenta when you were pregnant—is cut. After this, a stump forms, which dries up and falls off about two to three weeks later. The appearance of a baby's belly button after birth has to do with how the cord site heals.

How Are Belly Buttons Formed?

Essentially, your belly button is a scar, one which forms when the umbilical cord is cut. The medical term for the umbilical cord scar is umbilicus. All scars heal on the body in different ways. Some take on a flatter appearance than others, and some form with a little piece of tissue on the surface—and the same is true of belly buttons. Whether or not your baby will have an innie or outie belly button just has to do with the umbilical cord healing process. That said, there are two newborn medical conditions that may cause your baby's belly button to protrude: umbilical hernias and umbilical granulomas.

Umbilical hernias

Umbilical hernias are a condition that affects about one in five babies. They occur when the muscles around the belly button aren't fully closed, allowing a portion of the baby's intestines to protrude. This forms a small bulge at the site of the belly button. Some parents might mistake umbilical hernias for outie belly buttons, but they aren't the same thing.

Most umbilical hernias don't cause complications, and the muscle usually closes up on its own. Rarely, however, baby's organs become "strangulated" in the hernia, which causes the blood supply to be cut off. Your child will be in pain and may seem sick or have a fever. The umbilical cord area may turn reddish. This is a medical emergency. You should contact a pediatrician or head to the emergency room immediately.

Umbilical granulomas

Umbilical granulomas sometimes occur during the umbilical cord healing process, after the cord stump falls off. Umbilical granulomas look like pinkish or reddish areas on the umbilical cord scar. You'll also see a light yellowish fluid drain out of them. They are usually harmless and disappear in about a week. If they persist, however, you should contact a pediatrician.

Will My Baby Have an Outie Belly Button?

It's impossible to know how your baby's umbilical cord area will heal. All babies are different, and the way that your baby's cord area heals—and their belly button ends up looking—isn't something you can have a hand in. Moreover, the idea that the way the umbilical cord was cut might determine whether your baby has an innie or outie is a myth, believe it or not! Not only that, but tricks like taping a penny to your baby's belly button to flatten it simply don't work.

How to Care for Your Newborn's Belly Button

The way that pediatricians recommend caring for your baby's umbilical cord may go against your instincts, but you don't need to scrupulously clean the area or apply any creams or ointments. Rubbing alcohol isn't even recommended. The current advice from the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP) is to keep the area clean and dry.

According to the AAP, this means that giving your baby a short immersion bath before the cord falls off is okay, but then you should allow the area to completely dry afterwards. Cleaning the cord stump throughout the day isn't necessary, because you need to keep the area dry. Additionally, it's recommended that you fold your baby's diaper down so that it doesn't touch the cord stump.

When to Worry: Are Outie Belly Buttons Ever Cause for Concern?

In and of themselves, outie belly buttons are not a cause for concern. But just like any other belly button, you should watch for signs of infection after your baby is born and after the cord stump falls off.

A little blood is common after the stump comes off, but any sign of an infection should be reported to a doctor or pediatrician. Symptoms of umbilical cord infections in newborns include yellowish discharge at the cord site that has an unpleasant odor, reddening at the site, and symptoms in your baby, such as crying when the cord site is touched. Another sign of infection is a fever.

The bottom line? Having an outie belly button is uncommon but it's not a medical concern. If your child feels different because of the appearance of their belly button, you can help them embrace their difference and learn to love this unique aspect of their body.

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