You’ve thought your decision through carefully and decided not to circumcise your little boy’s penis; now the rest is pretty straightforward, right? Well, not exactly. You may read many different variations on how to care for your son’s uncircumcised penis. Many moms (who are frequently the ones cleaning and bathing the diaper area) are not familiar with exactly what’s supposed to be going on down there. What matters most for you at this point is to understand the basic parts of your little one’s anatomy, and to care for it in the best way possible.
The Circumcision Decision
All boys are born with a foreskin that covers the head of the penis; in circumcision, this foreskin is trimmed back so that the head is exposed. In an uncircumcised boy, the foreskin remains firmly attached to the head of the penis. Over the next few years, the foreskin gradually becomes detached and ultimately it can be rolled back or retracted.
The good news is that taking care of a baby’s uncircumcised penis is fairly simple and straightforward. For the first year of your baby’s life, all you need to do is wash his general diaper area, including the outside of his penis, with a gentle soap and water. The foreskin will be attached and you should not attempt to retract it in order to clean it. If you try to pull the foreskin back too early you can cause bleeding, tissue damage, or scar formation. So make it easy on yourself and just stick to a simple external washing.
As your baby gets older, you can very gently test the foreskin to see if it rolls back. If it doesn’t; let it be. If some of it does roll back, clean underneath with soap and water and then slide it back in place so that it covers the penis. Repeat as necessary as he gets older, gently rolling back whatever part can be rolled back but never pulling or forcing the skin. There’s no need to use cotton swabs or any other intrusive cleaning implements.
From time to time you may see white clumps of skin under the foreskin. These are skin cells that have been shed as a result of the foreskin separating from the penis. This so-called “ infant smegma” is completely normal and it can be gently washed away.
As you are taking care of your little boy, you should teach him about his foreskin and show him how to pull back the skin to wash it. By the time your boy reaches puberty, the foreskin should be fully retractable, and cleaning under the foreskin should be a part of his daily hygiene routine.
If you notice signs of infection – green pus, a foul odor – or if your son complains of pain or discomfort, you should have a doctor take a look. Also you may want to consult with a doctor if your son’s foreskin does not retract by the time he reaches puberty. But for the most part, your job is to simply keep him clean and let nature take its course.