There are so many things to think about after bringing baby home: feeding, changing, bathing, nursing, sleeping (baby’s sleep, not yours!), and don’t forget about caring for a newborn’s penis.
Oh, the joys of parenthood! While this part of the human anatomy may seem complicated — especially if you don’t have one — caring for a baby’s penis is really not that difficult once you know what to do.
And if this is your first go-around with a boy, there are other things to know, like why do baby boys pee suddenly during diaper changes? Fortunately, the experts have all kinds of answers to your most pressing questions. Here’s everything you need to know about caring for a baby’s penis.
Some parents will choose to have their baby circumcised. During this procedure, a doctor will surgically remove the foreskin, which covers the head of the penis. According to the American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG), this procedure can take place right after birth while baby is still in the hospital, or after mom and baby go home.
Regardless of when you choose to have your baby circumcised, the aftercare is generally the same, but be sure to get written aftercare instructions from the doctor regarding your baby’s type of circumcision.
Florencia Segura, MD, FAAP, a board certified pediatrician who works at Einstein Pediatrics, says the doctor will place a light dressing with petroleum jelly over the head of the penis.
Once you’re home, you should remove and replace this dressing with every diaper change for 24 hours, and after 24 hours, apply petroleum jelly directly onto the penis.
Her top tip for parents is to apply petroleum jelly with every diaper change for the first 7 days of life. “This ointment keeps the raw and healing area from sticking to the diaper, preventing painful diaper changes,” says Segura.
She also recommends using petroleum jelly since it can help speed the healing process and reduce the risk of infection by providing a barrier from stool and urine. “If stool gets on the penis, wash it gently with soap and water, pat it dry, and apply petroleum jelly afterward,” she adds.
Don’t be surprised if the tip of the penis looks very red at first. Segura says this is normal, and after the redness fades, a soft yellow scab develops, which typically goes away in a few days. “Both signs indicate that the area is healing normally.” Once the area is healed, the goal is to keep the head of the penis clean.
“At birth, a baby boy’s foreskin is attached to the head (glans) of the penis and cannot be pulled back as it can in older boys and men, which is normal,” says Segura. Over time, the foreskin will loosen up, but it may take years until you can pull the foreskin back completely over the tip of the penis.
“In the first few months after birth, do not try to pull the foreskin back over the penis. Instead, wash it during bath time with gentle and non-scented soap, like the rest of the diaper area,” explains Segura.
Your pediatrician will tell you when foreskin has separated, which occurs several months to years after birth, and can be pushed back for cleaning.
To clean an uncircumcised penis once the foreskin can be pulled back, Segura recommends these steps:
- When you gently pull the foreskin back, go only as far as it moves easily. Do not force it any further to prevent tears in the skin.
- Gently clean and dry the skin underneath.
- Once you are done cleaning, make sure to return the foreskin to its normal place to cover the tip of the penis.
- As your child gets older, they’ll be able to do these steps on their own.
Your doctor will send you home with information about how to care for your child after a circumcision. It’s normal for your baby’s penis to swell and appear red after a circumcision, but Segura says there are a few problems to look out for.
Call your pediatrician, if you notice any of the following after your baby’s circumcision:
- the redness persists longer than 1 week
- an increase in swelling and drainage
- significant bleeding (larger than a quarter-size amount of blood on the diaper)
- your baby can’t seem to pee
If your baby is uncircumcised, Segura says red flags that warrant a phone call to the doctor include:
- the foreskin gets stuck and cannot return to its normal place
- the foreskin looks red and there’s yellow drainage
- there’s pain or discomfort when urinating (baby is crying while urinating or old enough to use words)
If this is your first son, you may be surprised at all there is to learn. Sometimes, it might seem like your baby’s penis has a mind of its own, especially after the third or fourth time you’re peed on during a diaper change.
Oh, the peeing
While you may think that boys pee more than girls during diaper changes, Segura says this is not the case. Because urine tends to go up and away, boys will just surprise you more than girls. “This typically will strike the face or chest of the parent during the diaper changing while baby girl’s urine will usually flow downward,” she says.
Yes, babies get erections
Don’t be surprised if your little one’s penis is not so little all the time. Like an adult with a penis, a baby can also get an erection. “All baby boys have erections, and in fact, boy fetuses even have them in utero,” says Segura.
But don’t worry, they’re not a sexual response. Instead, she says they’re a sensitive organ’s normal reaction to touch. Segura says some examples of when your baby might have an erection are when the diaper rubs against the penis, when washing baby in the bathroom, when nursing, or just randomly.
Where are the testicles?
In general, a baby’s testicles will descend by the time they are 9 months old. But sometimes, things don’t go as planned. “Undescended testicles are testes that are not in the scrotum,” says Segura. If your pediatrician detects this, they’ll refer you to a pediatric urologist.
Confused by the different types of hernias? Don’t worry, we’ve got you covered.
In an inguinal hernia, Segura says a part of the intestines slips through one of the inguinal canals and bulges into the groin. “This is often first noticed as a lump in one of the creases where the thigh joins the abdomen, usually when a baby is crying (since they tense up),” she adds.
In a scrotal hernia, Segura says a part of the intestines slips down further into the scrotum, appearing as swelling in the scrotum. And an umbilical hernia is when a small coil of the intestine bulges through the opening in the umbilicus, raising the belly button to look like a lump. Segura says this type of hernia usually resolves on its own without any intervention.
There’s so much to know about caring for a new baby. If you have any questions or concerns about your baby, don’t hesitate to contact your doctor.
Whether your little one is circumcised or uncircumcised, knowing how to care for their penis will help you keep the area clean and free from infection.