by Maud Meates-Dennis
It is usual that a baby's foreskin will not retract (pull back) and the foreskin may not actually fully retract for years. Mothers don't have personal experience of how to clean a boy's foreskin and are often unsure of what to do.
The following guideline will help you:
Never force the foreskin back. Forcing may cause a tear on the lining of the foreskin. Not only will this hurt your baby, but when the tear heals, the healed tissue will be tighter. If this keeps happening, your baby will end up with a tight foreskin which will not retract (pull back).
When you are bathing your baby, gently wash under the foreskin. Move it back as far as it will go -- which isn't very far in the first years -- and let any secretions that may have gathered under the foreskin out.
As your little boy grows, teach him to gently pull the foreskin back during bathing (letting out any debris that may have gathered underneath) but never to force the foreskin back.
Eventually, the foreskin will fully retract. Teach your son to pull it back fully while bathing to keep clean.
There are no medical reasons for routine circumcision. Most boys are circumcised for religious reasons.
Sometimes, the foreskin is tight and balloons out when your son pees. Occasionally, this condition (phimosis) will require circumcision. If your son has a very tight foreskin at age 5 years [editor's note: Many pediatricians prefer to allow normal erections throughout adolescence to loosen the foreskin.], he may need a circumcision. Occasionally, boys will get an infection under the foreskin, called balanitis. If this keeps happening, there will likely be some scarring of the inside of the foreskin which cause a tightness that may require circumcision. Circumcision involves cutting the foreskin off.
There is evidence that circumcised boys get less urinary tract infections than uncircumcised boys, but the risk of urinary tract infection is so low in most boys, that being uncircumcised doesn't matter. The risk of the operation for circumcision cancels out any benefit from preventing a urinary tract infection in most boys. Very few boys get a urinary tract infection, circumcised or not.
Careful attention to cleaning and care of the foreskin as outlined above should prevent your baby son having any problems.
Dr. Maud is a pediatrician who provides easy-to-understand up-to-date health information and practical medical advice for parents of babies and toddlers on her website
Copyright © Maud Meates-Dennis. Permission to republish granted to Pregnancy.org, LLC.