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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. 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 health care providers, 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 the hospital.

There are several methods of circumcision 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 10 minutes from beginning to end.

It’s important to be aware of the best practices to follow during the immediate and later periods after a baby’s circumcision. Although the health care provider will apply an anesthetic agent to the penis, it’s normal for the 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

A tiny spot of blood on a newborn’s diaper in the days immediately after a circumcision is totally normal. Continuous bleeding that won’t stop or anything more than a coin-sized patch of blood in the diaper are reasons to consult a medical professional.

Redness

A baby’s circumcised penis is similar to any other type of skin wound, so redness or swelling around the tip of the penis are normal after circumcision. In time, the redness will subside, and the swelling will reduce as healing progresses.

How long does it take a circumcision to heal?

It will take a little time to recover from a circumcision. The operation is simple and straightforward, but as with most surgical procedures, there is a period of recovery. Here are a few things to keep in mind about the procedure.

Circumcision is not performed under a general anesthetic, so babies are 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 the baby will suffer no immediate pain during the procedure. Like any other wound, however, the pain and discomfort caused by damage to the skin around the tip of the penis will be distressing to the baby as they recover.

A health care provider or nurse will explain what can be done to reduce the baby’s discomfort or distress. Typically, infant formula medications are given to reduce pain and other symptoms. Despite these interventions, it will typically take 7 to 10 days for the baby 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 best things to do 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 that can help with the process of recovery.

  • When caring for circumcised newborns, it’s important to keep the area very clean to avoid infection. During every diaper change, remove any trace of poop from the penis and use only gentle, unscented soap and warm water to clean it. 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 the baby, so until the area has recovered, fitting the diaper a little looser than usual may help.
  • After the procedure, babies often have a thin layer of petroleum jelly and a bandage covering the tip of the penis. This usually falls off as soon as the baby urinates, but until then, it will provide some protection for the skin underneath. Afterwards, 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 five to seven days after the circumcision.

When to contact a health care provider 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 any of these signs are present, contact the pediatrician or health care provider for advice on the best way to proceed.

“Circumcision (Male).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 31 Mar. 2020, www.mayoclinic.org/tests-procedures/circumcision/about/pac-20393550.

“How to Care for Your Baby's Penis.” HealthyChildren.org, www.healthychildren.org/English/ages-stages/baby/bathing-skin-care/Pages/Caring-For-Your-Sons-Penis.aspx.

“Newborn Male Circumcision.” ACOG, www.acog.org/womens-health/faqs/newborn-male-circumcision.

“Post-Circumcision Care.” Children's Hospital at Dartmouth-Hitchcock (CHaD) | New Hampshire's Children's Hospital, www.chadkids.org/urology/post-circumcision-care.

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