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How to Care for Your Baby's Penis

​The Circumcised Penis

If you chose to have your son circumcised, the procedure probably has been performed in the hospital on the second or third day after birth, but may be done after discharge during the first week of life. Ritual circumcisions for religious reasons are usually performed in the second week of life. Afterward, a light dressing such as gauze with petroleum jelly will have been placed over the head of the penis. The next time the baby urinates, this dressing usually will come off. Some pediatricians recommend keeping a clean dressing on until the penis is fully healed, while others advise leaving it off. The important thing is to keep the area as clean as possible. If particles of stool get on the penis, wipe it gently with soap and water during diaper changes.

What to expect:

The tip of the penis may look quite red for the first few days, and you may notice a yellow secretion. Both indicate that the area is healing normally. The redness and secretion should disappear gradually within a week.

When to call the pediatrician:

If the redness persists or there is swelling or crusted yellow sores that contain cloudy fluid, there may be an infection. This does not happen very often, but if you suspect that infection is present, consult your pediatrician.

After the circumcision has healed:                       

Usually, after the circumcision has healed, the penis requires no additional care. Occasionally a small piece of the foreskin remains. You should pull back this skin gently each time the child is bathed. Examine the groove around the head of the penis and make sure it's clean.

Note: If circumcision is not performed within the baby's first two weeks (perhaps for medical reasons), it is usually put off for several weeks or months. The follow- up care is the same whenever it is done. Should circumcision become necessary after the newborn period, general anesthesia is often used and requires a more formal surgical procedure necessitating control of bleeding and suturing of skin edges.

The Uncircumcised Penis

In the first few months, you should simply clean and bathe your baby's uncircumcised penis with soap and water, like the rest of the diaper area. Initially, the foreskin is connected by tissue to the glans, or head, of the penis, so you shouldn't try to retract it. No cleansing of the penis with cotton swabs or antiseptics is necessary, but you should watch your baby urinate occasionally to make sure that the hole in the foreskin is large enough to permit a normal stream.

When to call the pediatrician:

If the stream consistently is no more than a trickle, or if your baby seems to have some discomfort while urinating, consult your pediatrician.

The doctor will tell you when the foreskin has separated and can be retracted safely. This will not be for several months or years, and should never be forced; if you were to force the foreskin to retract before it is ready, you could cause painful bleeding and tears in the skin. After this separation occurs, retract the foreskin occasionally to gently cleanse the end of the penis underneath.

What to do as your son gets older:

As your son gets older, you'll need to teach him what he must do in order to urinate and wash his penis. Teach him 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. 

Last Updated
Caring for Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5, 6th Edition (Copyright © 2015 American Academy of Pediatrics)
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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