How do I care for the intact penis? - Mothering Forums
The Case Against Circumcision > How do I care for the intact penis?
Erin Pavlina's Avatar Erin Pavlina 12:54 AM 12-30-2003
The decision not to circumsize was easy for me and DH, we were both in agreement... leave it be! But it has occured to me now that he's nearly 5 months old that I don't know how to care for it or if there is even anything special I should be doing.

Can you mommas enlighten me as to the proper care of an intact penis? Do I have to clean it in a certain way or just leave it be?

And what is this I hear about retraction? What is it, when does it happen, who is in charge of making it happen, etc etc.


laidbackmomto2's Avatar laidbackmomto2 01:16 AM 12-30-2003
Hi Erin! Welcome!

The infant intact penis is simple to clean...a simple wipe of the outside during diaper changes and a swish in the tub at bathtime is more than sufficient. I'm sure you've been doing as much as is required!

In previous times, doctors erroneously recommended that the infant foreskin required retraction (retracting the foreskin back over the glans ("head") of the penis) in order to "clean" underneath.

It is now known that the infant foreskin is in fact fused to the glans at birth (kind of like a nail is fused to the nail bed) and remains so for many years (anywhere from birth to puberty is a variation of normal). It is believed that the penis is not fully developed at birth and that the foreskin protects the sensitive internal component of the penis from exposure to clothing and contaminants (read "poopy" diapers, et al).

Premature retraction can cause all sorts of problems (not to mention pain), such as tearing, infection and acquired phimosis (where the foreskin develops scar tissue and cannot be retracted at all). The best rule of thumb for retraction is that your son should be the first and only one to ever retract his foreskin. Only HE knows how far back is comfortable for him.

Over the next few years, the bond between the foreskin and glans will break down. Smegma is a product of this breakdown. It is a combination of shed skin cells and secretions and may show up as a white, cyst-like lump under his foreskin which will work its way out from underneath on its own. After separation has occurred, the foreskin will seem more "slack", but often will still not retract over the glans. The second step to retraction is that the preputial opening (the opening of the foreskin) must "widen" or "loosen" enough to enable the glans to fit through the foreskin. Both of these steps are helped along by erections and the enevitable "playing" that your son will do.

Once your son does become fully retractable (usually around 5, but as stated previously, this is simply the average age), he should retract the foreskin occassionally during bathtime, rinse with water and replace the foreskin over the glans. I don't think it is necessary to demonstrate this (especially if he isn't fully retractable at an age where he will start to feel uncomfortable with you or your DH around at bathtime)...matter-of-fact words should suffice. It isn't until puberty where daily rinsing in the shower is more of a requirement (kind of like armpits)

Here are a few links that will provide you with more information:

Congrats on your sweet newborn son I'm sure you're doing a wonderful job taking care of ALL of him!


Lindsey (96/02/26)
Jason (00/06/08)
Erin Pavlina's Avatar Erin Pavlina 02:55 AM 12-31-2003
Thanks! This was very helpful!
Xenogenesis's Avatar Xenogenesis 07:54 AM 12-31-2003