Basic CARE OF THE Intact PENIS
It's so Easy!
How do you care for the intact penis of a baby or child?
"If intact, do not retract. Only clean what is seen."
You may want to do a quick external wipe during diaper changes. It's certainly not a requirement, but a baby, regardless of sex, sitting in a pee filled diaper might appreciate a gentle wipe-off.
And dip that baby in a warm bath once or twice a week. No soap. No manipulating the foreskin. No problem. That's all.
Is it Really that Easy?
If it's so easy why is there so much information on proper "intact care"?
Unfortunately, the majority of American doctors are still using outdated medical advice and are uneducated on the normal, whole male anatomy and are prone to giving misinformation that can actually harm your son. Forced retraction is the cause of almost all problems seen with intact boys.
- Never pull a child’s foreskin back toward his body to “clean” under it, or for any reason. Educate yourself on forced retraction.
- The foreskin is fused to the head of the penis, sometimes through puberty.
- The only person who should EVER retract the boy’s foreskin is THE BOY HIMSELF.
- Catheters can safely be inserted without retraction in boys whose foreskin is still fused to the head of the penis.
- Forced retraction is painful and can cause bleeding, infection, scarring, and other complications.
Should I Worry?
Learn what's normal and what's not. What you should and should not worry about...
Books & Videos
Dr. Adrienne Carmack, urologist, mother, and author, has a wonderful booklet to keep on hand for your own knowledge and when discussing intact penis care with your son's doctor. Purchase a copy of The Good Mommy's Guide for your peace of mind and your son's well-being.
A soak in a warm bath is all that is needed.
“Soap irritates mucosal tissue and dries it out… Don’t wash your baby’s foreskin with soap… just rinse the outside of the penis gently, from body to tip, as you would wash a finger,” explains Dr. Adrienne Carmack in her book, The Good Mommy’s Guide to Her little Boy’s Penis.
The Canadian Urological Association describes, “The uncircumcised penis requires no special care… It is important not to retract the foreskin forcefully for any reason. Some parents feel the need to pull the foreskin back to ‘clean under it.’ Since the young boy’s inner foreskin and the glans are initially fused, there is no space to clean.”
Doctors Opposing Circumcision details that boys and girls, “… needs only warm water gently applied to the outer, visible portions of his or her genitalia… No intrusive or interior cleaning of the genitalia . . . is ever needed or desirable, and aggressive hygiene is destructive of developing tissue and natural flora, and is harmful as well as painful.”
Once a male's foreskin has become retractable, he can simply pull back his foreskin and rinse with water, no soap, when bathing/showering. While this step can be suggested if the child is retractable before puberty, it should not be forced, as it still might cause him discomfort to pull back his foreskin.
Can my intact son ever take a bubble bath? Bubble baths are a staple of childhood!
The reality is, some people's genitals (male and female) are incredibly sensitive to soaps in their bath water. Some little girls cannot sit in a bubble bath without getting an UTI. Some boys can't either. Some little girls and boys may get a little irritated or burning, but recover easily. And, some little girls and boys can take a bubble bath and experience no issues from it. The only way to really know is to try it and pay attention to how your son's body reacts.
Weird things happen with all human bodies. Mostly, we take these weird things for granted. "Sleep" in the eyes. Boogers in the nose. Body odor in the arm pits. We could go on.
Genitals are no different. Smegma is naturally created by male and female genitals. Yeast can overgrow in males and females. Ballooning occurs as a normal part of development for many whole males. Educate yourself on these naturally occurring events so that you don't become fearful over something that is really nothing.
It's unfortunate, but we have heard too many stories of an intact male going to the doctor for a simple yeast infection that ends with forced retraction, an unnecessary catheter insertion, and a recommendation for circumcision. Imagine if that happened to your daughter when she had a yeast infection that could be treated with an over-the-counter remedy! (Boys can be treated with the same over-the-counter remedy!)
More than once we've heard of doctors telling parents they needed to have their son circumcised because of yeast, smegma, or the foreskin being "too tight" which "creates" the ballooning. In a country where even the doctors have been culturally conditioned to fear the whole bodies of males, and are not educated in normal development and treatment of common ailments, it is crucial that parents educate themselves fully. It is entirely possible that you will know more about the normal development of your son's genitals than his doctor will.
At What Age Does Foreskin Become Retractable?
Current research demonstrates wide variance in normal age of retractability. Some boys will be able to retract their foreskins before puberty, while other boys may not have retractable foreskins until the late teens.
A 2005 Danish study of more than 1,000 male children found 10.4 years to be the average age participants were first able to retract their foreskins. (1)
Two Japanese studies, together following 845 boys from birth, found that between one quarter and one third of healthy participants ages 11-15 were not yet able to retract their foreskins. (2,3)
While some medical professionals may mistakenly assume the naturally adhered foreskin of a male patient is problematic, “The fused mucosa of the glans penis and the inner lining of the prepuce separates gradually over years, as a spontaneous biological process”(4) and should not be forced apart. This natural fusion, sometimes incorrectly referred to as “adhesions,” dissolves on its own with hormone production and self-exploration.
1 Thorvaldsen MA, Meyhoff H. Patologisk eller fysiologisk fimose? Ugeskr Læger 2005;167(17):1858-62.
2 Ishikawa E, Kawakita M. Preputial development in Japanese boys. Hinyokika Kiyo. 2004;50(5):305-8.
3 Kayaba H et al. Analysis of shape and retractability of the prepuce in 603 Japanese boys. J Urol. 1996 Nov;156(5):1813-5.
4 Cold CJ, Taylor JR. The prepuce. BJU Int 1999;83 Suppl. 1:34-44.
Additional Resources for Proper Care of the Intact Male Body*
* The sources above are included because we understand it is difficult to find reliable information from respected sources. Some of the above sources have sound advice for proper care of the intact male body. Some of the above sources have *some* sound advice mixed in with outdated suggestions, such as using soap on the genitals. If you feel unsure, join our Facebook "Community of Learning" to ask parents, nurses, and intact men for their opinions.