Doulas of Des Moines
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The Doula Dish

It's a Boy! ....but what about the penis?

For most parents deciding whether or not to have their boy circumcised is a deeply personal and private decision. We realize that for many this is a “hot button” topic. We will not be debating the pros and cons. You should discuss the risks and benefits with your provider when making this decision. You can also ask your doula for resources and information if you want more info. No matter what you decide you will need to know how to properly clean and care for your little baby's penis. After all, you will be changing lots of diapers. We have put together the basic care guidelines for both circumcised and uncircumcised babies. This is a general overview of what is expected and is not a substitution for directions from a medical professional.

Uncircumcised penis care


Caring for an uncircumcised penis is pretty simple.. The rule is “Only clean what is seen.”  This means that you wipe the penis without retracting the foreskin. The foreskin should never be forcibly retracted, because the foreskin is attached to the glans. (head of the penis) The foreskin slowly detaches as your child ages. The foreskin is fully retractable in about 20% of boys by age six and around 50% of boys by age 10, and 98-99% by age 18. Foreskin that never retracts is rare and usually does not require any treatment. If it does cause pain or other issues there are treatment options other than circumcision that can help, circumcision is also an option but is often only used after other options have been tried. It has been the norm in America to circumcise for over 100 years and therefore many physicians are not well practiced in the proper care of the uncircumcised penis. This is why the most difficult thing about uncircumcised care in America is finding a provider knowledgeable in the proper care. Your Doula can help you find a physician in your area.

Circumcised penis care


There are a couple different methods in which a circumcision can be done. Be sure to follow your provider’s instructions for care. In a typical recovery your baby should be urinating normally; the penis will appear red and swollen for a couple days and likely will have a yellowish crust over the head. You may also notice some bruising from the local anesthetic if any was used. During diaper changes you will need to apply petroleum jelly onto gauze and place, jelly side down, over the penis after gently cleaning your baby with a soft washcloth and warm water. The petroleum jelly  prevents the gauze from sticking to the penis, but if the gauze does stick just use warm water to loosen it. Usually you need to use the gauze with jelly for about a week unless the plastibell method was used, then you may only need to do it for a day or two. Change your baby frequently, and keep the diaper loose to avoid pressure on the penis. Once healed you can gently retract the foreskin and apply petroleum jelly daily to prevent penile adhesions.

Call your physician immediately if your baby develops a fever over 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit, if you notice discharge or a foul odor, if the infant is unable to urinate, or if the gauze is bloody. If the penis is not healed in 7-10 days or if the plastic ring hasn't fallen off by day 8 then you should also give your provider a call.


If your baby's physician’s recommendations differ from this guide then you should follow your baby's physician’s instructions as your physician knows your baby's individual circumstances.

Jill KvinlaugComment