How to Care for Your Uncircumcised Baby's Penis

Parent changing uncircumcised baby's diaper
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Caring for an uncircumcised baby is the same as caring for infants who have been circumcised. Gentle, external cleaning during diaper changes and washing with soap and water during bath time are all that's necessary.

It can be hard to sort through the confusing, conflicting, and incorrect information out there about how to care for an uncircumcised baby. Learning the correct way to care for an uncircumcised penis is not hard, but it is important.

Improper care can lead to a child needing a circumcision later in life, particularly if a parent or caregiver retracts the baby's foreskin before it is ready.

Care for a Baby's Penis During Diaper Changes

The first point to remember in caring for your child's diaper area is to change their diaper frequently. Leaving urine or stool against your baby's skin for any length of time can cause redness, inflammation, and diaper rash.

Each time you change your uncircumcised baby's diaper:

  • Wipe the penis clean with warm water or wipes. Do not use Q-tips, special ointments, or creams unless diaper rash is present.
  • Don't try to retract the foreskin unless it has naturally separated from the glans. Forcing back the foreskin, which is usually attached to the glans in infants, toddlers, and young children, can cause pain, bleeding, and tearing. The natural separation of the foreskin often takes months or years.

Don't be alarmed by any whitish discharge you see coming from underneath the foreskin. This is called infant smegma and is completely normal. Skin cells from the foreskin shed naturally, gather underneath, and make their way out.

Smegma may be more noticeable when the foreskin begins to separate from the glans. Just gently wipe it away during a bath or diaper change.

Care for an Uncircumcised Penis During Baths

Caring for your child's uncircumcised penis while you bathe them is similar to care during diaper changes. Simply wash it gently with warm water and mild soap, and don't try to retract the foreskin.

Clean your baby's uncircumcised penis as you would a finger (i.e., "only clean what is seen"). In other words, don't try to retract the foreskin to clean underneath.

Although some parents may bathe their infant every day, it is actually not necessary for babies to have a daily bath. Every few days (about two or three times per week) is plenty. Daily baths can lead to dry skin in babies, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).

Signs of Infection

Though hygiene for an uncircumcised penis isn't complicated, not keeping it clean can allow bacteria, fungus, or viruses to get trapped and grow in the moist environment between the glans and foreskin, which can lead to infection.

Forcing the foreskin back before it's ready may cause a cut in the skin that can become infected, and in more severe cases, conditions like paraphimosis may develop.

What Is Paraphimosis?

Paraphimosis is a condition in which the foreskin gets stuck in the retracted position. This can happen when the foreskin is forced back from the glans. Paraphimosis may cause pain and swelling, and it is a medical emergency.

Watch for the following signs of infection in your uncircumcised child:

  • Fever
  • Pus coming out of the foreskin opening
  • Redness, swelling, or irritation at the tip of the penis
  • Urine coming out in only a trickle
  • Your baby seems to have discomfort while urinating

Any of these signs may indicate an infection or balanoposthitis (inflammation of the foreskin and glans).

Foreskin Retraction

The foreskin is attached to the head of the penis in most babies. As children get older, the foreskin begins to separate naturally from the head of the penis. In some babies, it may happen before they are born, though this is rare.

Most parents can expect this natural separation to occur within a few months, but it can take years, and this is also perfectly normal.

While most children will experience separation by age 5, know that for others it may not occur until adolescence.

Your child will most likely be the first to notice when this has happened. However, their pediatrician will also check at each appointment.

Once the foreskin retracts easily on its own, you can teach your child to clean the area. They can gently pull back the foreskin, clean underneath it with mild soap and water, rinse and dry the area, then put the foreskin back in place (don't leave it retracted).

Frequently Asked Questions

How do you clean a baby boy who is uncircumcised?

Simply wipe the penis with a clean, damp cloth or wash with warm water and a mild soap. Do not try to pull the foreskin back unless it has separated from the glans on its own. Be sure to dry your baby's diaper area thoroughly before replacing their diaper.

How do you tell if an uncircumcised baby has an infection?

Signs of infection include redness, swelling, pain on urination, or pus coming out of the opening of the foreskin. If you notice any of these signs, call your child's pediatrician.

How do you reduce the risk of UTI in an uncircumcised baby?

Keeping your baby's penis clean and dry and changing their diaper often are the best ways to avoid a urinary tract infection (UTI). Also, make sure your baby is getting is breast milk or infant formula and urinating often enough to produce at least six to eight wet diapers each day.

7 Sources
Verywell Family uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. UCSF Department of Urology. Phimosis.

  2. KidsHealth. Circumcision.

  3. American Academy of Pediatrics. Care for an uncircumcised penis.

  4. American Academy of Pediatrics. Bathing your baby.

  5. Seattle Children's Hospital. Foreskin care questions.

  6. Nicklaus Children's Hospital. Balanophosthitis.

  7. Children's Hospital of Orange County. Urinary tract infections in boys.

By Stephanie Brown
Stephanie Brown is a parenting writer with experience in the Head Start program and in NAEYC accredited child care centers.