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Heymatt:

My sister is having a baby pretty soon and she's terrified that her child might have to go through life with an outie belly button. Is there anything she can do to make sure it is a innie?

-- Josh, Escondido

Unfortunately this innie-outie thing should have come up earlier, when something could have been done about it. By now, the bellybutton die is cast. According to staff quack Dr. Doctor, when the umbilical cord is clamped and cut a inch or so from the baby's body, blood vessels in the cord and the baby's abdomen begin to atrophy. In about five days the stump of the cord falls off, and what's left is the infant's bellybutton for life. The size and shape of the healed umbilicus is genetically determined. There's nothing the obstetrician can do to customize your sister's baby's navel.

If this had been the ultimate in planned pregnancies, many months ago your sister would have lined up all her close relatives and the close relatives of the baby's father, had them hike up their shirts, and taken a bellybutton survey, checking for the ratio of innies to outies. Since the baby will get a 50 percent contribution of genes from each family, she could at least have gotten a good idea of which way the navel would go and could plan accordingly. If the prospective dad was from an all-outie family-- well, she might have reconsidered the whole deal right then.

But since the deed is done, I'd recommend your sister start nosing around Beverly Hills for a cosmetic surgeon who specializes in sculpting navels. I'm sure there's one out there somewhere. Oh, yeah�that'll be $300 for the house call, Josh.

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