If the gap in the belly wall is large or if your baby has any heart or lung problems, it may be too risky to push the organs inside their small body right away. In these cases, doctors use “paint and wait.” The sac covering the omphalocele is “painted” with an antibiotic cream. Over time, the membrane thickens up, and your baby’s skin grows over the sac. This may take several months.
If a baby has small lungs along with a large omphalocele, they will likely need the paint-and-wait approach.
When your baby is stable and breathing well, doctors wrap the sac with an elastic bandage, like the Ace bandages you can buy at a drugstore. The elastic of the bandage slowly pushes the bulge back into your child’s belly.
In most cases, babies do not need to be in the hospital for the whole paint-and-wait treatment. Our nurses will teach you how to change the bandage and care for your baby.
How long your baby stays in the hospital depends on whether they:
- Need long-term oxygen to support small lungs
- Also have a heart defect
- Are feeding well
It may take several months for the special bandage to push the bulge into your child’s belly. This may seem like a long time, but paint and wait works very well in children with large omphaloceles. It has greatly reduced the problems babies used to have when surgeons tried to push all the organs back into the belly right away.
As your baby grows, there is more room inside the belly for their organs. Breathing becomes much easier as a baby’s lungs and belly get larger. When all of the contents of the sac are pushed into your child’s belly, the surgeon will talk with you about a surgery to close the hole that remains.
Read how Onora’s care team decided “paint and wait” would be best.