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Newborn Circumcision Care: Do's and Don'ts for a Quick Recovery

The circumcision of a newborn is, in most cases, a simple and straightforward procedure and appropriate follow-up can promote a quick recovery afterwards. Join Flo for our comprehensive guide to circumcision aftercare.

What to expect after a circumcision

Circumcision is a surgical procedure involving the removal of the foreskin, the fold of skin at the tip of the penis. Circumcisions are performed by a wide variety of healthcare professionals, including pediatricians, obstetricians, family medicine practitioners, and others. When performed on a newborn, circumcision often occurs shortly after birth while the baby is still in hospital.

Several methods of circumcision are in current usage around the world, but all techniques work by interrupting blood circulation to the foreskin immediately before it is surgically removed. The entire procedure is brief and takes only about 30 minutes to complete from beginning to end.

It’s important to be aware of the best practices to follow during the immediate and later periods after your child’s circumcision. Although an anesthetic agent will have been applied to the penis, you should expect your baby to be a little upset or unsettled after their circumcision.

Although the appearance of the penis can be upsetting for parents during the recovery period, it’s perfectly normal for the area of the circumcision to be reddened or bruised while it heals. You may also notice any combination of the following signs:

Blood spots

Try not to be too alarmed by a tiny spot of blood on your newborn’s diaper in the days immediately after a circumcision. But be alert to continuous bleeding that won’t stop or anything more than a coin-sized patch of blood in the diaper — either sign is a reason to consult a medical professional.


Your baby’s circumcised penis is similar to any other type of skin wound, so don’t be surprised to find redness or swelling around the tip of the organ. In time, the redness will subside and the swelling will reduce as healing progresses.

How long does it take a circumcision to heal?

You should expect your baby to take a little time to recover from his circumcision. The operation is simple and straightforward, but as with most surgical procedures, there is a period of recovery that follows circumcision. Keep the following in mind as your child recuperates from the procedure:

Circumcision is not performed under a general anesthetic, so your baby will be fully conscious during the procedure. Shortly before it begins, a numbing anesthetic agent will be applied to the penis as an injection or a topical cream. This will temporarily remove sensation from the area, so your baby will suffer no immediate pain during the procedure. Like any other wound, however, you should anticipate that the pain and discomfort caused by damage to the skin around the tip of the penis will be distressing to your baby as they recover.

A doctor or nurse will explain what can be done to reduce your baby’s discomfort or distress. Typically infant formula medications are given to reduce pain and other symptoms. Despite these interventions, you should still expect your child to take 7 to 10 days to completely recover from their circumcision.

Being aware of the best practices for taking care of the site of the circumcision and promoting healing are among the things you can do to look after your little one at this stage.

Circumcision is a common procedure that heals completely and without complication in the overwhelming majority of cases. However, during the healing phase after the procedure there are a number of things you can do to help with the process of recovery:

  • Ask any healthcare professional who deals with circumcised newborns and they’ll tell you how important it is to keep the area scrupulously clean. For obvious reasons, you don’t want your baby to have to cope with an infection so early in life — particularly in this sensitive area. At every diaper change, make sure that you remove any trace of feces from the penis and remember to use nothing more than a gentle, unscented soap and warm water. Air-dry only for now; this will reduce the likelihood of the area becoming irritated by towels or other fabrics.
  • Keep the penis clean with regular washing during each diaper change, and take these opportunities to replace the dressing on the wound. Close contact between the diaper and the healing penis may be uncomfortable for your baby, so until the area has recovered you may want to fit his diaper a little looser than usual.
  • After your baby’s procedure, he may go home with a thin layer of petroleum jelly and a bandage covering the tip of the penis. This usually falls off as soon as he urinates, but until then it will provide some protection for the skin underneath. Afterwards, you can keep the area clean and protected by dabbing a little petroleum jelly or antibiotic cream onto the tip of the penis during each diaper change for at least a day or so after the circumcision.

When to contact a doctor after a circumcision procedure

In the vast majority of cases, newborns recover from a circumcision without complication after 7–10 days. However, parents and caregivers should be vigilant during this period and look out for any of the following symptoms:

  • Difficulty urinating (in newborns this may result in fewer wet diapers than normal)
  • Fever
  • Foul-smelling discharge
  • Increased reddening or swelling of the affected area
  • Excessive bleeding

If you notice any of these signs, don’t hesitate to contact your pediatrician or family doctor — they will be happy to offer you expert advice on the best way to proceed.




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