Innie or Outie?

No one asked or honestly cares for that matter, but while you’re here and I have your undivided attention I get to be the master of subject matter for a blink. My brain is a marvel. I’ll let you in. Here’s how I tick. I’ll be having a typical innocent conversation (yes, I am capable of innocent dialogue), and then my thoughts fall into a worm hole. It looks like this:

 

I’m click listing, Kroger style, and I see Lucky Charms now has magical unicorns with its medley of delicious rainbow marshmallows. Let me put that in my virtual buggy real quick…my inner dialogue hits cruise control, and the thought process goes from magical unicorns to unicorns falling in love with dragons to Game of Thrones. From Game of Thrones to dorks playing Dungeons and Dragons to the guy on Big Brother that plays D&D and hasn’t been kissed to making out (that’s where it always goes). From making out to my girls night out, where it then landed on a random comment someone made about hating their belly button.

 

All that to say this blog post is brought to you by General Mills.

Have you ever taken the time to thank your glorious navel?

Have you ever taken the time to thank your glorious navel?

Lift your top and gaze at your cute, little button. It is actually pretty cool and, I believe, undervalued.

 

Your navel is the remnants of where your umbilical cord was attached. While you are warm and marinating in your mother’s womb, the cord is attached to your belly and to a placenta. That cord holds the working lifeline of nutrition and oxygen exchange from momma to baby via arteries and veins.

 

Mom’s blood–> uterus –> placenta –> cord –> navel –> your body.

 

HOORAY for belly buttons! Soon after birth, the cord becomes a powerless scar, per se. The body is so smart and quickly begins to seal the portion of the connection between the body and navel. What is left on the inside becomes ligaments.

 

I’d like to address a silly little myth circulating that once again gives medical experts too much credit. This myth states that docs decide whether a baby should have an innie or an outie by way of manipulation of the cord. Not so. Most outies are due to hernias or undetected small infections that caused extra growth of tissue. Evidence shows that many of us start off with outies but only 10% remain through adulthood. Both are normal.

 

During pregnancy, an innie can, with miraculous talent and a growing tummy, pop out like a turkey button, metaphorically stating “I’m done.” This shift is awfully adorable.

 

As I am fascinated by weird stuff, gross stuff, the-nastier-the-better stuff, such as spending hours watching pimple-popping videos or telling folks to smell something foul that I am oddly fascinated with, belly button funkiness falls right in line with my delight.

It is one of the fascinating body parts that prides itself on hoarding nasty gunk. Some awesome scientists at North Carolina State University spent countless hours and financial backing to share with us all that navels have been found to have 2,368 different bacterial species living in their depths. On average, we as individuals have over 65 at any given time. YUMMY!

 

Speaking of yummy, did you know there is a company that has experimented with making cheese from navel bacteria. Dirty bird special. Delish. (I told you I like gross stuff.)

 

Along with bacteria, lint can be found in the navel! Whoo-hoo. Get your digging finger ready to cultivate. Lint is really just a combo of dead skin cells, sweat, hair, and clothing fibers. Women, we win here, because men are much more likely to have navel lint than we are. (Unless your abdomen is man hairy.)

 

This is the place where I pull out my midwife card and talk babies…because I LOVE IT!

 

I have been having my own babies for over 20 years. In that time, care for a newborn cord stump has changed with each and every child I gifted the world with. Let me share the current evidence with you.

 

A few days after birth, if all is going well, your baby’s stump will begin to dry out and resemble a crusty dark booger. It’s still cute, of course. Most fall off one to three weeks from birth on their own. While we wait for that magical moment, the most important thing to do is keep the area dry. Your well-meaning family may share their experiences with you, possibly recommending rubbing alcohol. However, research has concluded that rubbing alcohol kills bacteria needed to dry and separate the cord. Good old room air will do the trick just fine.

 

Most midwives use herbal baths that contain beautiful cleaning and astringent properties. This is the only submersion into water I would give a “thumbs up” to until the cord falls off. Other than this, stick to sponge baths in order to keep the belly button area dry.

Cord Stump

Newborn baby umbilicus.

It’s also a good idea to fold your babies’ nappy down to avoid friction with the cord stump. And please for the love of Pete, don’t pull the stump. I promise it will fall off on its own.

 

Most babies are pure perfection and issues don’t show up, but I always tell parents what is normal and what is not so normal.

  • Normal: A little bit of blood smear near the stump. As with all healing processes such as a scraped knee, it is normal to see a bit of blood as it completely seals over. In addition, you might notice a certain smell. A belly button smell is typical.
  • Not normal: Redness, oozing pus, STINKY smell, swelling, or a pink moist bump. Those are all signs of infection, and you’d want to let your midwife know.

 

Now, I am getting hungry, and Lucky Charms are calling my name, so I leave you with this. As midriffs regain popularity and folks show off those navels, I encourage you to drift into the hollows of your own and say, “GEE, thanks ol’ fella for feeding me before I could feed myself and, of course, for being ultra cool all these years.” Navel gaze away my friends.

 

By the way, I have an innie.

About the Author

A certified nurse midwife and doctorate student has been in the Houston birth community for over a decade. Her experience includes elementary school nursing, hospital L & D, birth center, and home birth. Andie is confident in a woman's ability to grow and birth her baby. She feels a partnership in care is empowering and hopes to foster that relationship with families. She has a tender, lighthearted, and hands off approach to the evidence based care she offers. She has been joyfully dating her husband of 16 years since junior high and has five children. Her passions beyond bellies, birth, and breastfeeding are mission work and reading.