Inspect the territory
As you recall how your journey to motherhood began, your baby boy’s bits and pieces should look familiar. But even so, this is likely the first time you’ve been responsible for around-the-clock twig-n-berries care. Let’s start by peeking under that diaper to see what you’re working with …
There it is! The little limb that created such a stir at your 20-week ultrasound. At this age, the penis’ main job is expelling urine (other responsibilities will accrue with the onset of puberty). Urine travels from the bladder through the tubular urethra (which will also transport semen one day) and out through the round end of the penis called the glans. Blood is circulating through the penis at all times, so don’t be alarmed if you catch it changing size or direction; even if baby’s member appears to be standing at attention, it’s most likely nothing to worry about.
Beneath the penis, you’ll spy the scrotum, a loose pouch of skin housing twin testicles. If your newborn’s testes haven’t yet taken up residence, don’t panic—they’ll probably come out of hiding shortly. However, your pediatrician will refer you to a specialist, who can discuss surgical and hormonal solutions, if one or both of your baby’s testes are still MIA after the first three months.
You may notice redness and swelling in your baby’s genitals after birth—results of the extra fluid he’s temporarily toting and the hormones you recently lent him. If one or both of baby’s testicles remain swollen past the first few weeks, he may have either a harmless hydrocele (a pocket of fluid from the abdomen) or an inguinal hernia (in which a loop of the intestines has become caught in the scrotum) requiring attention. Your pediatrician will spot the difference.
Snip it or skip it
Circumcision is optional. Your insurance will likely cover it if you opt yes, but you have every right to a guilt-free no if that’s what you decide. On one hand, having baby’s foreskin surgically removed can reduce his likelihood of transmitting HIV and HPV, the virus that causes cervical and penile cancers. Bladder and urinary tract infections are also less common in circumcised guys.
On the other hand, there is some level of risk involved in any surgery. Rarely, circumcision will lead to infection or prolonged irritation, and adhesions can form if the area isn’t sufficiently lubricated throughout the healing period. Also worth noting: Sexual experience is said to be more intense for uncircumcised guys.
If you do elect for your son to be circumcised, the procedure can be performed as early as baby’s first two days of life—it takes only minutes, and the cut is fully healed about a week later. Before you leave the hospital, make sure you get a hands-on circumcision care demonstration from baby’s doctor or nurse. Coating gauze with a thick layer of Vaseline, then applying the salve before fastening baby’s diaper will help avoid adhesions and keep baby boy as comfy as possible. You’ll want to repeat the process at every diaper change until the site is completely healed.
[[Why an increasing number of moms are for foreskin]]
While it’s still a religious rite for some and a social custom for many, fewer U.S. boys are going under the knife today than in decades past. Research has shown infant circumcision does not necessarily equal better health or improved sanitation. Plus, circumcision remains an option later in life if desired.
Keep it clean
Your little dude’s diaper changes bring an added element of surprise: Any cool breeze may result in a vicinity-soaking eruption from his mini geyser. The goal is to be quick but thorough. Newborn poops can be explosive (and any residual goo can result in an angry rash), so be sure to clean the penis and scrotum well —over, under and side to side until the baby wipe comes away clean.
At bath time, test the water temperature against your wrist, then clean baby’s sensitive diaper zone with a gentle, scent-free cleanser. If baby is uncircumcised, don’t try to clean under the foreskin until he gets a little older and his doc gives the OK. At that time, you’ll gently clear away white smegma secretions as part of his routine cleanup.