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Ages & Stages

Care for an Uncircumcised Penis: What Parents Need to Know

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If the skin at the end of your child's penis (foreskin) has not been surgically removed (circumcised), it's important to know how to clean and care for the uncircumcised penis.

Should a baby's foreskin retract?

At birth, the foreskin is attached to the head of the penis and cannot be pulled back. The age at which the foreskin separates differs for each child. Rarely, this process takes a few weeks, but more often it takes months or years.

When is it OK to pull back the foreskin & clean under it?

Once the foreskin separates, the foreskin can be pulled back away from the tip of the penis. This is called foreskin retraction.

Remember that foreskin retraction should never be forced. Until the foreskin fully separates, it shouldn't be pulled back. Forcing the foreskin to retract before it is ready can cause severe pain, bleeding and tears in the skin.

How to clean the foreskin and penis

Before the foreskin has separated:

In the first few months, clean your baby's foreskin and penis with warm water. Cotton swabs or antiseptics are not needed. Do not pull back the foreskin.

After the foreskin has separated:

Teach your child how to clean their foreskin. Before puberty, they should occasionally clean under the foreskin. During puberty, they should clean under the foreskin when showering or bathing.

  • Step 1: Gently pull the foreskin back away from the end of the penis.

  • Step 2: Rinse underneath the foreskin with warm water.

  • Step 3: Pull the foreskin back over the penis.

  • Step 4: Clean the penis with warm water, and, if needed, use mild soap. If you use soap, avoid contact with the opening of the penis and rinse the penis well.

A note about smegma

White, pearl-like lumps under the foreskin are typical. It's also typical to see a thick, white or yellowish substance under the foreskin and near the penis. This substance is called smegma.

Smegma is a collection of dead cells, oils and other fluids. A buildup of smegma can lead to foul odor or skin irritation. Rinse smegma off with warm water, or gently wipe it off with warm water and a washcloth.

When to call your baby's doctor

If the hole in the foreskin is not large enough for your baby to urinate as expected (see signs below), call your baby's doctor.

  • The urine stream is never more than a trickle.
  • Your baby seems uncomfortable while urinating.
  • The foreskin is red or swollen.

More informaton

Last Updated
Adapted from Care of the Uncircumcised Penis (American Academy of Pediatrics Copyright © 2022)
The information contained on this Web site should not be used as a substitute for the medical care and advice of your pediatrician. There may be variations in treatment that your pediatrician may recommend based on individual facts and circumstances.
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