This is not another post about the heated debate between circumcision vs keeping your boy intact. Yes – breathe that sigh of relief. As a doula, I encourage you to do your due diligence and research circumcision thoroughly before making any decision. In fact, I recommend that for all major parenting decisions. But this post is not intended to sway you in one direction or the other.
This is a simple basic care guide for your newborn’s parts, whether they are circumcised boys, intact boys, and I’ll even cover genital care for baby girls.
At birth, newborn genitals are swollen from all the raging hormones of pregnancy and labor, but they quickly rectified in a few weeks.
The uncircumcised penis. It is a myth that the baby’s foreskin requires a lot of extra attention and work. A basic rule of thumb is that an intact penis should be cleaned like a finger. No retraction or additional cleaning is required. In fact, one of the primary things you need to understand about caring for an intact foreskin is that you SHOULD NOT retract it at all. Your boy will retract it when he is ready and this will happen naturally anytime between toddlerhood and puberty. In the meantime, the foreskin protects the glans as well as cleans it. Problems begin to arise with intact boys when the foreskin is prematurely retracted. For further information on intact care, check out Dr. Momma’s Care for Intact Penis Post. http://www.drmomma.org/2009/06/how-to-care-for-intact-penis-protect.html
Circumcised boys. There are a few basic care things that you can do for your boy as his penis is healing, whether he was circumcised at the hospital or by a mohel in a separate location. On average, it takes 7-10 days for the penis to heal. During that time, careful and deliberate steps should be taken to ensure that it heals properly. Following circumcision, the area will be very sore and caregivers should handle it gently. Wash it gently with warm water and a mild soap so that it can be kept clean of bacteria. Do not use baby wipes. Some doctors recommend keeping a dressing on it, while others say that is unnecessary. Consult your baby’s pediatrician for advice on dressing the wound. Protecting it with petroleum jelly or A & D ointment is also sometimes recommended. Again, check with your baby’s provider. Once it is healed, no further cleaning steps are necessary.
Baby girls. Baby girls need to be cleaned thoroughly as much as little boys do. Make sure your hands are clean and use your fingers to separate the baby’s vaginal lips. Use a clean cloth or alcohol-free wipe to clean her from front to back. Make sure that you get both sides of the labia. Often in the first few diaper changes, you may notice white cottage cheese looking substance in or around the labia. This is Vernix; a skin protectant your baby had while submerged in water for the last 37-42ish weeks. It is normal. There is no need to remove it.
Whatever you decide to do in terms of circumcision for your boy is entirely up to you. Knowing how to care for your baby’s genitals is a crucial and often overlooked necessity for baby care.