Umbilical Cord and Penis Care
Umbilical cord care: Most umbilical cord stumps fall off anywhere from a few days to a couple of weeks after birth, but if it hasn’t, don’t touch or pick at it. It will come off on its own eventually.
Some families like to save the stump for cultural or sentimental reasons, but that’s completely up to you.
To care for the area:
- Wash the umbilical cord three to five times a day with warm water, rubbing alcohol or hydrogen peroxide, depending on your doctor’s instructions.
- Discharge (which might contain a small amount of blood) is normal, but if oozing is accompanied with a foul odor, redness surrounding the cord, or fever, call your doctor immediately.
Penis care: The choice to circumcise a penis (removing the foreskin that surrounds the glans) is a personal one, often rooted in deep-set religious or cultural norms. While the American Academy of Pediatrics does not recommend circumcision for medical benefits, it is still a largely practiced tradition in the United States, often for hygienic reasons. Parents should follow their own beliefs and do what they feel is best for their child.
If you choose the circumcision route but didn’t have it done in the hospital, this may be the week that you visit a doctor or a mohel – a Jewish man trained in circumcision who performs the procedure in a traditional ceremony. Either way, this is what you can expect:
- The baby will be placed on his back, often with his arms and legs strapped down to prevent movement.
- A topical anesthetic or numbing injection will be administered to reduce his pain.
- About 5 mm of foreskin that cover the head (glans) of the penis will be cut away using a metal ring or clamp. The procedure takes less than 5 minutes but does cause the child pain and takes some time to heal. Alternately, one can use the minimally invasive Plastibell Device – a clear plastic ring placed on the penis head, designed to fall off within a week.
- During the recovery period, dab petroleum jelly on the penis and cover in sterilized gauze with each diaper change until the site heals, usually in the first couple of days.
- A little oozing and crusting is normal, as is soreness and a small amount of bleeding. Be gentle and let his body heal on its own.
- If there is any unusual swelling, odor or excessive bleeding, call your doctor.
- Avoid submerging the penis in water during this recovery period. His umbilical cord shouldn’t get wet either (see bathing).
- Once the wound heals, simply wash the penis with soap and water.
- There’s no special care needed for an uncircumcised penis beyond washing the outside with soap and water.
- Until the foreskin is retractable (usually not until puberty), don’t try to clean under it.