As you might imagine, circumcision is something of a fraught topic among nervous new parents. Outside the US, the procedure is fairly uncommon, save for certain religions. But here, the majority of males have their foreskins snipped soon after birth for cultural, medical and religious purposes, so you may need to know a thing or two about circumcision care if you’re having a baby. Naturally, there’s a lot of pressure to make the right choice, but there isn’t one—except the one that feels right to you and your partner.
“There’s good data that circumcision reduces the risk of HIV and syphilis, the risk of females contracting HPV, male problems with phimosis (stricture of the foreskin) and the risk of urinary tract infection in infancy,” says Steven Kairys, MD, medical director of the NJ chapter of the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). While these may sound like pros for getting snipped, not so fast. “The AAP states that there are certainly benefits, but that the benefits are not that large that [it’s] recommended for all infants. It really is a personal family choice,” Kairys adds.
Like any medical procedure, there are risks. All we can do is control what we can. If you opt to do it, here are some tips on post-procedure care.
HE’LL BE FINE—WE PROMISE!
You may be a mess, but infants do very well afterward, says Kairys. “The fussiness is mostly during the procedure, but a little Tylenol can be helpful.” Breastfeeding immediately after also goes a long way.
KEEP IT CLEAN
This is key and no small feat, given that you’ll change lots of diapers those first few weeks. With each change, you’ll need to ever-so-gingerly wipe to remove any residue. If it’s a number two, you’ll want to wipe and gently wash off the whole area with unscented soap and water every time until it’s fully healed.
Some experts feel a small dab of Vaseline or an antibiotic such as Bacitracin on the penis tip after every diaper change is all that’s necessary to facilitate healing. Others recommend doing a dab followed by gauze. Either way, most babies tend to heal in seven to 10 days.
KEEP AN EYE ON IT
During the first couple of days, his penis may be a bit red, swollen, scabby, bloody or oozy. That’s normal. “The biggest concerns are with bleeding and, with the circumcision not being done properly, leaving some foreskin there,” says Kairys. Contact your pediatrician ASAP if you notice bleeding, fever, too few wet diapers or if the wound isn’t healing.
TRUST THE EXPERTS
Ask for circumcision care instructions from your child’s doctor or mohel (the person who performs the procedure at a Jewish bris). And don’t be afraid to reach out with questions—they’ve heard it all.