Improperly cleaning the foreskin of an uncircumcised baby might cause bleeding and pain. Here’s how to care for an uncircumcised newborn, and how to teach him proper hygiene techniques as he grows up. 

By Jenni Singer and Janice Perrone
July 02, 2015
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Circumcision rates have been experiencing a steady decline in America. The procedure, which removes the foreskin to expose the tip of the penis, is currently conducted in about 58.3% of newborns, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). This is significantly lower than circumcision rates from 1979, when 64.5% of newborns were snipped. 

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. 

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.

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. 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.

Comments (5)

Anonymous
September 1, 2019
This information is NOT correct! You should never retract the foreskin, that should only be done by the [filtered] owner. Additionally, no soap is needed, just a good rinse with warm water. Ballooning is normal before retraction is possible and is not a symptom of phimosis, which actually can’t be accurately diagnosed during adolescence. Please correct this article! Forced retraction is the leading cause of infections and complications with the foreskin. Misinformation like this article hurts boys. For correct info visit yourwholebaby.org, or look up doctors opposing circumcision, saving sons, bloodstained men, or intact America.
Anonymous
September 1, 2019
This information is NOT correct! You should never retract the foreskin, that should only be done by the [filtered] owner. Additionally, no soap is needed, just a good rinse with warm water. Ballooning is normal before retraction is possible and is not a symptom of phimosis, which actually can’t be accurately diagnosed during adolescence. Please correct this article! Forced retraction is the leading cause of infections and complications with the foreskin. Misinformation like this article hurts boys. For correct info visit yourwholebaby.org, or look up doctors opposing circumcision, saving sons, bloodstained men, or intact America.
Anonymous
September 1, 2019
Uff, where to begin? Don't use soap on the genitals at any age, it can throw off pH which can then cause an infection. Swelling and discharge is most likely a yeast infection and can be treated at home (without going to the doctor) with otc lotrimin. Just slather on the outside of the entire [filtered]. DO NOT pull back the foreskin to try to apply it inside. Many antifungal creams specify not to put it on mucous membrane (the head of the [filtered] is a mucous membrane). You also don't have to worry about cleaning under the foreskin until puberty, and even then, only when your son can retract himself. The foreskin may release and reattach to the glans during infancy abd childhood, which is normal. Urine pooling in the foreskin is simply ballooning caused by the foreskin beginning to separate from the glans. There are some spots the foreskin may be separated and other spots it may not, so urine may "balloon" the foreskin out. It is NOT an indication that the foreskin is too tight. Fun fact: the foreskin being too tight is usually called phimosis and cannot be diagnosed until adulthood due to the natural separation of the foreskin from the glans ranging from 2-18 years old. If he can pee, his [filtered] is fine. Most of this knowledge came from yourwholebaby.org.
Anonymous
September 1, 2019
Uff, where to begin? Don't use soap on the genitals at any age, it can throw off pH which can then cause an infection. Swelling and discharge is most likely a yeast infection and can be treated at home (without going to the doctor) with otc lotrimin. Just slather on the outside of the entire [filtered]. DO NOT pull back the foreskin to try to apply it inside. Many antifungal creams specify not to put it on mucous membrane (the head of the [filtered] is a mucous membrane). You also don't have to worry about cleaning under the foreskin until puberty, and even then, only when your son can retract himself. The foreskin may release and reattach to the glans during infancy abd childhood, which is normal. Urine pooling in the foreskin is simply ballooning caused by the foreskin beginning to separate from the glans. There are some spots the foreskin may be separated and other spots it may not, so urine may "balloon" the foreskin out. It is NOT an indication that the foreskin is too tight. Fun fact: the foreskin being too tight is usually called phimosis and cannot be diagnosed until adulthood due to the natural separation of the foreskin from the glans ranging from 2-18 years old. If he can pee, his [filtered] is fine. Most of this knowledge came from yourwholebaby.org.
Anonymous
December 29, 2018
My baby never slept well (especially through the night) until I started using the website www.SleepBaby.org - that website has been by far one of the best things I've ever got my hands on to get him to fall asleep quickly. Best time is 45 seconds from awake to asleep! Can’t imagine life without it! I heard about it through a kindergarten teacher who uses it to put to sleep a group of 30 children. Check it out!