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Umbilical Hernia Repair in Children: What to Expect at Home

Your Child's Recovery

Your child may have some pain around the belly button (navel) and need pain medicine for several days after surgery. The area around your child's navel may be swollen for several weeks.

After surgery, your child will no longer have a hernia. There will no longer be a bulge around your child's navel.

Most children are back to many of their normal activities, like walking or playing with toys, 1 or 2 days after surgery. It takes about 1 to 2 weeks for the cut the doctor made (incision) to heal. The incision will leave a small scar that will fade with time. If the hernia was large, there may be some loose skin around your child's navel. This usually shrinks and becomes less noticeable as your child grows.

This care sheet gives you a general idea about how long it will take for your child to recover. But each child recovers at a different pace. Follow the steps below to help your child get better as quickly as possible.

How can you care for your child at home?


  • Allow your child to slowly become more active. Have your child rest as much as needed. Make sure your child gets enough sleep at night.
  • Your child may shower 1 to 2 days after the surgery. Pat the incision dry after the shower. Do not let your child take a bath for the first 2 weeks, or until the doctor tells you it is okay.
  • Your child will probably be able to go back to school or most of his or her normal activities, like walking or playing with toys, about 1 or 2 days after surgery.
  • Your child should not ride a bike, play running games or contact sports, or take part in gym class for 3 to 4 weeks or until your doctor says it is okay. It is okay for your child to walk and play with other children or play with toys.
  • Until the doctor says it is okay, your child should avoid lifting anything that would make him or her strain. This may include heavy milk containers, a heavy backpack, or a medium-sized pet.


  • Your child can eat his or her normal diet. If your child's stomach is upset, try bland, low-fat foods like plain rice, broiled chicken, toast, and yogurt.
  • Have your child drink plenty of fluids to avoid becoming dehydrated.
  • You may notice a change in your child's bowel habits right after surgery. This is common. If your child has not had a bowel movement after a couple of days, call your doctor or nurse advice line.


  • Your doctor will tell you if and when your child can restart his or her medicines. The doctor will also give you instructions about your child taking any new medicines.
  • Be safe with medicines. Read and follow all instructions on the label.
    • If the doctor gave your child a prescription medicine for pain, give it as prescribed.
    • If your child is not taking a prescription pain medicine, ask your doctor if your child can take an over-the-counter medicine.
    • If the doctor prescribed antibiotics, give them as instructed. Do not stop using them just because your child feels better. Your child needs to take the full course of antibiotics.
  • If your child feels sick to his or her stomach:
    • Do not give pain medicines on an empty stomach. Give your child pain medicines after meals or with a snack (unless the doctor has told you not to).
    • Ask the doctor for a different pain medicine if you think the one you have makes your child sick.

Incision care

  • If there are strips of tape on the incision, leave the tape on for a week or until it falls off.
  • Wash the area daily with warm, soapy water and pat it dry. Don't use hydrogen peroxide or alcohol, which can slow healing.
  • Keep the area clean and dry.

Follow-up care is a key part of your child's treatment and safety. Be sure to make and go to all appointments, and call your doctor or nurse advice line (811 in most provinces and territories) if your child is having problems. It's also a good idea to know your child's test results and keep a list of the medicines your child takes.

When should you call for help?

Call 911 anytime you think your child may need emergency care. For example, call if:

  • Your child passes out (loses consciousness).
  • Your child has severe trouble breathing.
  • Your child has sudden chest pain and shortness of breath or coughs up blood.
  • Your child has severe belly pain.

Call your doctor or nurse advice line now or seek immediate medical care if:

  • Your child is sick to his or her stomach and cannot drink fluids.
  • Your child has pain that does not get better after he or she takes pain medicine.
  • Your child has signs of infection, such as:
    • Increased pain, swelling, warmth, or redness.
    • Red streaks leading from the incision.
    • Pus draining from the incision.
    • A fever.
  • Your child has loose stitches, or the incision comes open.
  • Bright red blood has soaked through the bandage over your child's incision.
  • Your child has severe vomiting.
  • You notice a sudden, new bulge at the incision site.

Watch closely for changes in your child's health, and be sure to contact your doctor or nurse advice line if:

  • Your child does not have a bowel movement after taking a laxative.

Care instructions adapted under license by your healthcare professional. If you have questions about a medical condition or this instruction, always ask your healthcare professional. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information.