Caring for your baby boy's genitals: A guide for parents
This guide is especially for new parents who may not be quite about how to look after their baby boy's genitals.
Parenthood and all things associated with it can sometimes leave new parents scratching their heads and asking "how do I do this?"
Caring for your baby's genitals is just one such thing. What should you expect to see at birth? How do you care for your little one down there and when should you consult with a doctor are just some of the questions parents might find themselves asking.
If you have, or are going to have a little girl, then we've already addressed the topic of looking after her genitals in a separate article, which you can read by clicking this link.
This article will give you information and tips pertaining to the care of your baby boy's genital region. Do keep in mind that this is a guide only. You should be consulting your paediatrician for any health-related matters concerning your baby.
What to expect at birth
Don't be too surprised if you see that your newborn baby boy's genitalia appear swollen at birth -- this is quite normal.
This swelling and enlargement occurs due to a combination of factors including exposure to your hormones and bruising of the genitalia during the birth process.
You might also notice that your little boy's scrotum looks quite large. This is usually due to what is known as a hydrocele, which is when fluid collects in the scrotum. This almost always disappears within the first six months.
A newborn boy's testicles may also be difficult to locate within the swollen scrotum. Medical experts explain that this is because "muscles attached to the testicles pull them up into the groin briskly when the genital area is touched or exposed to a cool environment."
Your little boy will also experience erections. This again is normal and usually occurs just before they pee.
Keeping your baby boy's genitalia clean
The uncircumcised penis
Whether you choose to circumcise your son or not, it's very important to learn how to keep his penis clean in order to prevent infections and other problems.
In the first couple of months, simply clean your little boy's penis with a gentle body wash and water along with the rest of his diaper area. Gently pat dry (do not rub) with a clean, soft towel, and then dress him in his diaper.
It is not necessary to clean the penis with antiseptic or cotton swabs.
Do not try to pull back his foreskin, which is the skin that covers the head of his penis. Instead, gently tense it against the head of the penis and wash off any smegma, which is whitish beads of dead skin cells mixed with the body's oils.
The foreskin serves an important function, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics. It shields the glans, or head of the penis, which is important especially during your baby's infant years when the penis can get easily irritated by urine and faeces.
Your baby's foreskin is connected to his penis by tissues, so if you try to force the foreskin back prematurely, you could cause bleeding and painful tears to his skin.
Do occasionally observe your son urinating to ensure the hole in the foreskin allows a normal stream of pee to escape. If you consistently notice a mere trickle of urine, or your baby seems to be in discomfort while peeing, speak to your doctor for advice.
The foreskin will gradually start to retract naturally once your baby is a few years old and usually by the time he is around five or six, it will retract fully. Until this time, cleaning the penis well with soap and water is enough.
Remember: baby boys are notorious for peeing in their parents' face during diaper change time, so change his diaper swiftly to prevent this! You may also want to have a small towel handy during change time -- just in case!
Remember to point your baby boy's penis down in his diaper before fastening it to prevent leaks.
As your son grows older, teach him how to keep his penis clean by:
- Gently pulling the foreskin away from the head of his penis
- Washing the head of the penis and inside of the foreskin with soap and water
- Pulling the foreskin back over the head of his penis
If your son's foreskin does not fully retract by the time he reaches puberty, call your doctor for advice.
To read all about circumcision, including how to care for a baby boy's circumcised penis, read this detailed article now.
Common genitalia issues in baby boys
Thirs occurs when abdominal tissue -- such as a loop of intestine -- moves into your baby's open inguinal canal. If this happens, you will notice a small, painless bulge in your baby's groin area, say medical experts. These hernias are more common in boys than girls.
What to do
In order to prevent your baby from developing a strangulated hernia which is "a condition that occurs when a piece of intestinal content gets stuck in the canal and cuts off the blood supply to that portion of the intestine", your doctor may recommend minor surgery to close up the inguinal canal.
If you baby does develop a strangulated hernia, it will result in a hard, swollen and very painful lump in his groin area that needs immediate medical treatment.
This happens "when a boy's inguinal canal fails to close, fluid from the abdomen can collect in the scrotal sac," says Dr Steven Tennenbaum, a New York-based paediatric urologist. It causes your baby's testicles to appear swollen, but isn't painful.
What to do
A hydrocele will usually go away on its own. But if it doesn't, then your baby's doctor may recommend surgery after the first birthday to get rid of the fluid and close the passageway.
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
A UTI can occur if your baby's penis is not cleaned properly, and is caused by an overgrowth of bacteria. Usually, high fever is the only symptom of this condition.
But sometimes, you may notice odd-smelling urine, unusual irritability in your baby or even vomiting. If you notice any of these symptoms, please consult your baby's paediatrician without delay.
What to do
A course of antibiotics will easily treat a UTI, according to doctors.
This sometimes occurs after circumcision. When body tissue is cut, the edges can stick the the area around the cut. When a baby boy is circumcised, raw areas of the foreskin may stick the glans, or head of the penis.
If this happens, it may look like the penis was never circumcised, or like the glans is covered by a thin film.
What to do
A penile adhesion is painless and will almost always correct itself as the penis grows. No treatment is needed. However, if the adhesions are extensive, a mild steroid cream may be prescribed, says Dr Victoria McEvoy, assistant professor of paediatrics at Harvard Medical School.
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