Umbilical hernia factsheet


Babies have an umbilical cord that connects them to the placenta during pregnancy. When your baby is born, the umbilical cord is cut and clamped. The leftover stump will dry out and fall off, leaving behind their belly button.

Around the belly button is a ring of muscle called the umbilical ring. The umbilical ring will slowly close from when your baby is born until about age five. 

A bulge can appear around your baby's belly button if the umbilical ring takes too long to close. This is called an umbilical hernia.

Umbilical hernias are common in babies. They are more likely to happen in babies who are born prematurely or at a low birth weight.

Umbilical hernias do not usually cause serious problems and should go away as the umbilical ring closes over time. 

 Signs and symptoms

An umbilical hernia looks like a bulge or swelling around your child’s belly button. The bulge can come and go and might be more noticeable when your baby cries or strains.


Your doctor will physically check your child's belly to see if there is a hernia. 


Most umbilical hernias will close on their own between 2-5 years old and should not cause any problems.

If the hernia is present after this age, your child’s doctor may recommend surgery to repair the space around the belly button. 

Surgery is also done in children who have an opening in their abdominal wall that is larger than normal.

Umbilical hernia repair surgery

Your child’s doctor will refer you to a surgeon to repair the hernia.

This procedure is done in the hospital while your child is under a general anaesthetic. This means they will be asleep and will not feel any pain.

In the umbilical hernia repair surgery:

  1. the surgeon makes a small cut at the base of the belly button
  2. the tissues that are bulging are pushed back into the abdomen
  3. the opening is closed with stitches that will dissolve under the skin.

Your child will have a scar at the base of their belly button after the procedure. The scar will fade as your child grows, but it will not go away.

If your child recovers well after the procedure, they can go home the same day.

Very young or premature babies will need to stay overnight in the hospital.

Your child’s doctor will make an appointment to check on the hernia repair about a week after going home from the hospital. 


Managing your child’s hernia repair at home

Your child will need to rest at home after the procedure and take pain relief when needed, following the doctor’s instructions closely.

Most children can return to normal activities a few days after the procedure. Check with your doctor if you are unsure about the type of activity your child should be doing.

When to seek help

See your local doctor as soon as possible if your child has signs of infection, including:

  • pain
  • swelling
  • fever
  • bad-smelling discharge coming from the surgery wound. 
Last updated Monday 29th January 2024


This factsheet is provided for general information only. It does not constitute health advice and should not be used to diagnose or treat any health condition.

Please consult with your doctor or other health professional to make sure this information is right for you and/or your child.

The Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network does not accept responsibility for inaccuracies or omissions, the interpretation of the information, or for success or appropriateness of any treatment described in the factsheet.

© Sydney Children’s Hospitals Network 2024