foreskin fact sheet

For those parents out there that have a son or are expecting a son, one of the most monumental choices you’ll make after-the-birth is whether or not to circumcise your child. Though the AAP (American Academy of Pediatrics) has recently come out in favor of circumcision, there are more than a few good reasons to forgo the snip.

Regardless of those politics which you can read up in droves around the internet or by checking sites that are against circumcision like Intact America, if you have an uncircumcised boy and you’re a mother like me, then circumcision might be a lofty ideal that you don’t have much practical day-to-day information on. It’s not like I have a small penis to care for and the slightest idea of what questions to ask about that anatomical curiosity…

Well, never fear! A rather informative fact sheet has been put together to answer some of those pressing questions discovered via Kids Health New Zealand which was adapted from a pamphlet provided courtesy of NOCIRC or National Organization of Circumcision Information Resource Centers. Check it out and keep the health of your baby boy’s boy part intact. 😉

What is the foreskin? The loose skin that covers and protects the penis.

(illustrations from the NOCIRC pamphelet on foreskin questions)

Does it need special care? Not particularly. You don’t need to wash it specially– when your son is ready to retract the skin then he will likely begin to wash his penis himself. 🙂 As for preventing irritation or infection before then, change diapers often and allow diaper-free time, make sure your baby is hydrated enough (so urine is not acidic and irritating), and be cautious of bubble baths, soaps, and detergents that may contain irritating chemicals (ala go as natural as possible). 🙂

What is retracting the foreskin? Retracting the foreskin is pulling the skin that covers the penis opening back to expose the penis.

YOU CAN RETRACT THIS SKIN TOO EARLY AND CAUSE PROBLEMS FOR YOUR SON.

  • Forcing the skin back before the natural retraction can tear connective tissues and cause pain.
  • Forced early retraction can leave a wound and lead to infection
  • Adhesion can form and cause permanent problems with retracting the skin.
  • Scar tissue may form narrowing the hole through which urine passes (phimosis)
  • Foreskin can get stuck behind the penis (essentially like circumcision) (paraphimosis).

How do you know when it is time to retract the foreskin? Your son will likely figure this out on his own without much oversight or inquiry from you or medical professionals. 🙂 At this point, you may teach him proper bathing techniques for cleaning his penis.

There is much more information on the NOCIRC pamphlet site as well as partner organizations like Circumcision Information and Resource Pages and KidsHealth but it seemed apropos to post some of these questions/answers here.

The most intriguing bit to me was about retraction. It’s not something that ever entered the consciousness of me as a mother– don’t you just decline to circumcise and move on?  When my son was an infant, I didn’t know about retraction and at least one doctor and nurse forcibly retracted the foreskin on my son causing him to have an infection– urinary tract infection– when he was only a month or so old! I didn’t understand why or how this could have happened when I am extremely cautious, always changed his diapers, bathed him properly and the like!  The doctors and their staff tried to bully me into circumcising him yet again after my initial and emphatic NO! It turns out it was their abusive medical practice that caused my son to suffer through agonizing and completely unnecessary pain!  Yet I, unfortunately, did not know any better and because of my ignorance was allowing things to happen to my child that were clearly against his best interests. Luckily, this did not result in any permanent damage past the initial (preventable) infection.  Long story short, I feel it is even more important to share this information with other parents so that they can avoid the drama, expense, and heartbreak of seeing doctors, nurses, or other authority figures take advantage of their lack of knowledge and cause their trusting and dependent children pain.

Though I was a single mother who hadn’t the slightest clue about penis, foreskin, or circumcision (of course past the point of “it’s not my choice to make!”), I don’t think many fathers (circumcised or not) would have the ability to distinguish between abusive medical practices, necessary procedures, or even why their son’s penis is infected any better than I would.  As an uncircumcised father, you may not remember the details and nuances of penis care as an infant or child and obviously as a circumcised father this is new territory for you as well.

So mother or father or caregiver, please know that there are additional points of mindfulness to engage in with an uncircumcised boy!  It doesn’t truly make a difference in hygiene whether the baby is circumcised or not unless you are not treating the infant respectfully, mindfully, and appropriately.

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