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
- 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.