How to Care for an Uncircumcised Penis

Circumcision is just one of the many decisions new parents must make.

baby in bath and mom squeezing soap
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One of the first decisions many parents face after birth is whether or not to circumcise the male child. They need to weigh the benefits and risks and come to a decision that is right for them and their child.

The circumcision trend might be partly attributed to the American Academy of Pediatrics' 2012 task force report, stating that even though circumcision has medical benefits, it's not routinely recommended for newborns. It might also be due to the fact that fewer insurance companies are covering the procedure, according to Ronald Gray, M.D., a professor of epidemiology at Johns Hopkins University in Baltimore.

Deciding not to circumcise your son is a perfectly acceptable choice based on cultural, ethical, and religious standards. But those who opt against circumcision should understand how to safely and properly clean their son's parts. Here's how to care for an uncircumcised penis.

RELATED: Plastibell Circumcision: The Procedure, Side Effects, and Aftercare

Uncircumcised Baby Care

When your son is first born, his foreskin is completely fused to his penis. The foreskin will retract later in life—usually by five years old, but sometimes not until puberty. Rarely, your son's foreskin might begin retracting within days or weeks of birth.

Improperly cleaning the foreskin of an uncircumcised baby might cause bleeding and pain. Never forcefully push the foreskin back on the shaft, or else you might cause pain, bleeding, or tearing. Forcing the foreskin back is also unnecessary since germs or dirt won't accumulate where it's still fused with the penis.

Wipe the penis and foreskin during diaper changes to keep it clean, says Vanessa Elliott, M.D., a urologist at UCP Urology of Central PA, Inc., and gently wash your baby's genital area with soap and water while bathing him. You don't need to do any special cleansing with cotton swabs or antiseptics, since these can cause irritation.

Call your doctor if the foreskin looks red, or if it appears painful and itchy for your child. This may indicate an infection or inflammation. Also let your M.D. know if urine is pooling inside of it, which may signal that you child's foreskin is too tight.

Caring for a Penis With Retracted Foreskin

Shortly after your son's foreskin starts retracting, you may notice small, white bumps underneath it called smegma. These cells once attached the foreskin to his penis and are now being shed.

When bathing your child, retract the foreskin gently from the head of the penis—but only as far as it will go without forcing it. The foreskin is thin and fragile so never pull it back more than it seems to want to go.

Once the foreskin fully retracts, boys should be taught how to wash underneath the foreskin every day. The American College of Obstetrics and Gynecology recommends that you teach your son to clean his foreskin by:

  • Gently pulling it back away from the head of the penis.
  • Rinsing the head of the penis and inside fold of the foreskin with soap and warm water.
  • Pulling the foreskin back over the head of the penis.
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