I'm not planning to have my newborn circumcised. How should I care for his uncircumcised penis?
Answer From Jay L. Hoecker, M.D.
A fold of skin (foreskin) covers the head of an uncircumcised penis. If your baby isn't circumcised, simply wash the penis with nonirritating soap and water during each bath. There's no need to use cotton swabs or special cleansers.
At birth, the foreskin of most male babies doesn't yet pull back (retract) fully. Treat the foreskin gently, being careful not to force it back. Forcing it could cause pain, tearing and bleeding.
Consult a health care provider if your baby seems to have discomfort while urinating — especially if the foreskin fills with urine or balloons out during urination — or the foreskin becomes red, itchy or swollen.
As your child gets older, the foreskin of the uncircumcised penis will begin to separate from the tip of the penis. This process, which may take several months or years, allows the foreskin to be retracted.
As soon as the foreskin can be retracted, it's important to clean beneath it regularly. Teach your child to:
- Gently pull back the foreskin
- Clean beneath the foreskin with mild soap and water
- Rinse beneath the foreskin thoroughly
- Pull the foreskin back over the head of the penis
Once the foreskin can be retracted, it's important to pull it back over the head of the penis after cleaning beneath it. If the foreskin is left behind the head of the penis too long, it may get caught and you or your child may not be able to return it to its typical position (paraphimosis). If this occurs, it's important to seek emergency medical care. Paraphimosis can cause pain and swelling, and it may lead to complications if left untreated.
Encourage your child to follow the same procedure through adulthood as part of a daily bathing routine.
March 10, 2022
Children’s health information and parenting tips to your inbox.
Sign-up to get Mayo Clinic’s trusted health content sent to your email. Receive a bonus guide on ways to manage your child’s health just for subscribing. Click here for an email preview.
ErrorEmail field is required
ErrorInclude a valid email address
To provide you with the most relevant and helpful information, and understand which information is beneficial, we may combine your email and website usage information with other information we have about you. If you are a Mayo Clinic patient, this could include protected health information. If we combine this information with your protected health information, we will treat all of that information as protected health information and will only use or disclose that information as set forth in our notice of privacy practices. You may opt-out of email communications at any time by clicking on the unsubscribe link in the e-mail.
Thank you for subscribing
Our e-newsletter will keep you up-to-date on the latest health information.
Something went wrong with your subscription.
Please try again in a couple of minutes
See more Expert Answers
- Wilcox D. Care of the uncircumcised penis in infants and children. https://www.uptodate.com/contents/search. Accessed Feb. 9, 2022.
- Care of the uncircumcised penis. American Academy of Pediatrics. https://publications.aap.org/patiented/article/doi/10.1542/peo_document108/80183/Care-of-the-Uncircumcised-Penis. Accessed Feb. 10, 2022.