One of the first parenting decisions you’ll have to make after giving birth to your baby boy is whether you plan on having him circumcised. Circumcision is a personal choice and one that is made for myriad reasons — religion, medical necessity, family tradition, perceived health benefits. And if it’s something you’re seriously considering for your child, you’re also going to need to know about circumcision care.
But first, what is circumcision? Well, it’s a pretty common surgical procedure that involves removing your baby’s foreskin (the hood of skin that covers the head of the penis) with three common instruments: the Gomco clamp, the Mogen clamp, and the Plastibell device. The procedure is relatively simple and is typically done before the baby leaves the hospital, or within a few days of their birth.
So, if you’re thinking of circumcision for your son, here are the best tips for his circumcision care.
What happens during circumcision?
Your baby will be awake for the procedure and will be placed on their back with their arms and legs restrained. According to the Mayo Clinic, the penis is cleaned with antiseptic before an anesthetic — either an injection or a topical cream — is administered for pain management.
The surgery is pretty similar no matter what instrument is being used: Gomco clamp, the Plastibell device, or the Mogen clamp. A clamp or ring is attached to the penis, and the doctor removes the excess foreskin. For plastibell circumcisions, your baby will have a plastic ring around the head of his penis post-op, which should fall off by itself in 10 to 12 days.
What to Expect After the Procedure
Your baby’s penis will appear red and swollen for a few days after the surgery. You might notice a bruise from a plastibell circumcision and a thin, yellow film on the penis, which is a normal side effect from the procedure and should go away within a few days. It might hurt for your baby to urinate for a few days afterward, too.
This is an “it gets worse before it gets better” type of situation in which your baby’s penis might look super bad. But, as tough as it may be, the best thing you can do is trust the process. If you’re doing everything right with the after-care, everything should be healing.
How long does it take for a circumcision to heal?
While the pain should subside within three to four days after the surgery, it can also last up to two weeks. The total healing process can take seven to 10 days. So, try to be patient.
How to Heal a Circumcision Wound Faster
We know you want to make sure your baby’s boo-boo heals up ASAP, but there’s really no magic formula to speed up the healing process aside from the basics. This includes:
- Making sure your baby is resting. Sleeping can be a cure-all for ailments, so make sure he’s getting his ZZZs.
- Follow doctor’s instructions on pain medication. Most likely, your doctor will prescribe children’s acetaminophen for the pain (to be given as instructed).
- Keep it clean. Simple is best when it comes to cleaning a circumcision wound. Use a gentle, unscented soap and warm water after every diaper change, making sure to wipe away any poop from the area. You can give your baby a sponge bath. But don’t give him a bath for at least a week after the surgery. Never use alcohol or hydrogen peroxide.
- Keep it protected but not covered. The wound may have petroleum jelly and gauze on it post-surgery. The gauze will probably come off after your baby urinates. Some doctors differ on whether you should keep the dressing on and off. It’s best to follow your doctor’s directions about whether to put clean gauze back or to leave it off. If the dressing is to remain off, then you’ll probably be advised to apply a bit of petroleum jelly or antibiotic ointment after every diaper change for the first day in order to prevent chafing and from sticking to the diaper.
- Double diaper it. Speaking of diapers, keep it a little loose while your baby’s wound heals so there’s less pressure on his penis. You might also want to double-diaper it for a while to help cushion his penis and prevent his thighs from rubbing against it.
- Keep an eye on the wound. According to SickKids Health, the glans (the rounded part forming the end of the penis) will change from red to purple and might even appear off-white or have yellowish patches in the first few days after surgery. The patches are basically scabs and are totally normal. Swelling is also normal and will go down within two weeks. The penis will look smaller after the circumcision since the penis looked more erect from the surrounding skin.
When should you call a doctor?
Call a doctor if the following occurs with your baby:
- A fever
- Excessive swelling
- Yellowish discharge that lasts longer than a week
- Difficulty with urinating
- Foul-smelling drainage
- Red color spreading to legs and abdomen
- Persistent bleeding on the diaper
- Not eating
And, as always, trust your intuition, Mama! If you feel like something is off, don’t feel bad about giving your baby’s pediatrician a quick call to check-in.
Why do boys get circumcised?
There are many reasons mamas choose to circumcise their baby boys. It can reduce bacteria that lives under the foreskin, which can cause urinary tract infections. There is also a religious component in some cultures. For example, in Judaism, circumcision represents the covenant between God and Abraham. The ceremony is called berith milah and baby boys are usually circumcised when they’re eight days old.