As a parent, you’re likely to hear a lot of contradictory advice on any number of subjects, whether that’s where you give birth, how you should school your children, or how you should discipline your kids. One area that is full of confusion and contradiction is the issue of how to care for an uncircumcised baby’s penis. Some people will give extreme advice, saying that you need to use Q-tips to invasively clean the area under the foreskin, while others insist that intact penises need absolutely no cleaning at all. Of course, the answer is somewhere in the middle.
I asked my kids’ own pediatrician where she stood on the issue of how to bathe uncircumcised babies’ penises, and she echoed the same stance as Mayo Clinic. In general, an intact penis does not need special care of any kind for at least the first few years of life. When a baby is born, his foreskin naturally covers the tip of his penis, making it impossible to clean underneath it without forcibly retracting it. There is no need to forcibly retract it, and doing so could actually seriously hurt or even scar the baby.
For that reason, while your baby is still a baby, he’ll need to be bathed no differently from any other infant. A simple rinse of his genitals is completely sufficient; it needs to be washed no differently than his ears or fingers. Parents and caregivers should not, under any circumstances, forcibly retract a baby’s foreskin, since it could be painful and can lead to unnecessary irritation and complication. Like a girl’s genitals, an uncircumcised baby boy’s genitals don’t require “internal” cleaning and should essentially be left alone during infancy, other than for simple bath-time washing and rinsing.
The only exception may be when a baby boy has actually gotten debris or feces in, or under, the foreskin of his penis, which isn’t entirely uncommon for babies who are still in diapers. The best way to handle this, according to my pediatrician, is to let the baby soak for a long period of time in a lukewarm bath for at least half an hour. If the area appears red or inflamed a few hours or a day later, he may need a quick trip to the pediatrician for further advice.
After the baby’s foreskin becomes fully retractable, which can happen any time before puberty and sometimes occurs in toddlers, it may need some extra care. In general, by the time a boy’s foreskin can effortlessly retract, he is old enough that he can retract it himself (with a little instruction) and then gently wash and rinse the area underneath it. If a child can’t do this on his own by the time his foreskin retracts (such as if he has special needs or if it retracts at an unusually early age), his parents or caregivers might need to retract it for him and gently rinse it off once or twice a week. Fortunately for we parents who would prefer to leave such “detailed” hygiene to our sons, it’s usually a task that a child can handle without assistance, so there’s not necessarily a need for parents to be directly involved.
If you have any questions about how to bathe an uncircumcised baby boy’s penis, it’s a good idea to talk to your child’s own pediatrician about it. Although advice on this subject can be contradictory and sometimes unnecessarily complicated, you’re likely to find that the process is much simpler than you might expect. Baby boys generally don’t need any extra attentive hygiene care, regardless of whether or not they were circumcised.