Newborn Circumcision Care 101
On This Page
- What is circumcision?
- How do you take care of a child after circumcision?
- Can I bathe my baby after circumcision?
- What does “normal” circumcision healing look like?
- How long does circumcision take to heal?
- What is the most common complication of circumcision?
- When should I call the doctor after circumcision?
Roughly 58% of baby boys in America are circumcised, making circumcision one of the most common surgical procedures in the country. But just because circumcision is prevalent, doesn’t mean new parents have any clue how to care for their newborn’s circumcised penis! (How would they?) That means, on any given day, thousands of bleary-eyed parents are frantically Googling How do you take care of a child after circumcision? or How long does it take circumcision to heal? If this sounds familiar, you’re in luck. Keep reading to learn what to expect after circumcision and how to care for your newborn’s circumcised penis.
What is circumcision?
Male circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskin (aka prepuce) that covers the penis, which leaves your baby’s penile glans exposed. The procedure takes about 5 to 10 minutes and is either performed by a healthcare provider within your baby’s first few days or—if Jewish—by a trained professional called a mohel eight days after birth. (In the Jewish faith, circumcision is also called a bris.)
Your baby should receive pain control—such as oral sucrose solutions, plus topical and injectable pain relievers—before their circumcision. (Experts note that a sucrose solution alone is not an adequate pain control for infants.)
During the procedure, your baby’s penis and foreskin will be cleaned and a special clamp will be attached to the penis so that the foreskin can be carefully cut and removed. Afterward, your little one’s wound will be covered with both petroleum jelly and gauze to protect it from rubbing against the diaper. At times, a plastic ring called a Plastibell is used instead of a bandage. This should fall off about 10 days later.
How do you take care of a child after circumcision?
Now that the procedure is done, it’s up to you to care for your baby’s penis as it heals. While the prospect of cleaning your baby’s circumcision wound seems daunting (or a little icky), know that parents have been doing this for eons. You got this! Here’s what you need to know:
Change your baby’s diaper often. Lingering urine and stool can cause an infection, so change your baby’s diapers regularly. Be sure to fasten diapers loosely to prevent uncomfortable friction.
Avoid baby wipes…for now! They may cause stinging or irritation. Wait until your baby is all healed to reach for the baby wipes.
Apply petroleum jelly. After cleansing your little one’s diaper area, apply petroleum jelly directly to your baby’s penis or on a sterile gauze pad to help keep the bandage from sticking. (Some doctors may recommend antibiotic ointment instead of petroleum jelly.)
Protect Baby’s penis with gauze...if your doctor recommends it. Some pediatricians suggest keeping a clean dressing over your baby’s circumcision wound until fully healed, others advise keeping the penis covered for a day or two, and still others favor leaving the bandage off. Chat with your healthcare provider to zero in on the best strategy for you.
Can I bathe my baby after circumcision?
Regardless of circumcision status, newborns should only be given sponge baths until their umbilical cord stump has fallen off, between 5 and 15 days after birth. If your baby’s circumcision is still healing after their umbilical cord has fallen off, reach out to your healthcare provider for bathing advice. (Learn more about how to properly give your newborn a bath.)
What does “normal” circumcision healing look like?
The tip of your baby’s penis may be tender, bruised, appear slightly swollen, and look red for the first few days after circumcision. You may also notice some yellow secretions, a teeny bit of blood, and/or yellow skin near the incision line. Don’t panic! The yellow-ish skin is from bilirubin and is harmless. The rest are signs your little one’s circumcision is healing normally. So, remember, it’s perfectly normal to spot the following symptoms after your baby’s circumcision:
Yellow secretions (Don’t wipe it away!)
Minor blood spots on your baby’s diaper
Yellowing around the incision
How long does circumcision take to heal?
Tenderness should dampen by day three, while redness and secretion gradually fade within a week. Then, between 7 and 10 days post-circumcision, the scab at the incision line usually comes off and your baby’s will be fully healed, according to the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP).
What is the most common complication of circumcision?
While every surgical procedure carries some risk, complications from a circumcision are considered quite rare, according to The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists (ACOG). When complications do occur, they’re usually minor, with bleeding and infection topping the list. Rarely, circumcision might result in other complications, including:
Foreskin cut too short or too long.
Foreskin fails to heal properly.
Remaining foreskin reattached, requiring a surgical fix.
Help Prevent Bleeding After Circumcision
Roughly 1 in 200 children experience bleeding after circumcision, making this one of the most common complications. According to experts, newborns who don’t get their vitamin K shot after birth experience a six-fold increase in post-circumcision bleeding. That’s because vitamin K helps blood clot and prevents serious bleeding—including bleeding associated with circumcision.
When should I call the doctor after circumcision?
Keep an eye out for the following red flags that indicate your baby needs to see the doctor after their circumcision:
Rectal temperature greater than 100.4 degrees Fahrenheit
Redness that has spread up the shaft of the penis or to the belly
Redness that worsens after 3 to 5 days
Pus, pimples, or water blisters present
Leaking with a foul odor
No wet diapers within 6 to 8 hours after circumcision
Bleeding more than quarter-sized or constant bleeding
Head of penis is dark blue or black
Plastic ring has moved to shaft of penis
Plastic ring remains in place two weeks after circumcision
More on baby care:
- Baby Acne: What to Do About Infant Pimples
- Dr. Harvey Karp’s Newborn Sleep Tips
- How to Change a Diaper
- Here’s How to Trim Your Newborn’s Nails
- Caring for Your Baby’s Soft Spot
- Neonatal Circumcision: What Are the Factors Affecting Parental Decision? Cureus. November 2021
- Circumcision. StatPearls. August 2022
- Urology Care Foundation: Circumcision
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologist (ACOG): Newborn Male Circumcision
- Seattle Children’s Hospital: Circumcision Problems
- American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP): Circumcision
- The Nemours Foundation, KidsHealth: Circumcision
- AAP: How to Care for Your Baby's Penis
- Mayo Clinic: Circumcision (male)
- Brigham and Women's Hospital: Newborn Circumcision
- Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia: Fellow’s Corner: Referral for Newborn Circumcision: What to Know
- Cleveland Clinic: Circumcision
Have questions about a Happiest Baby product? Our consultants would be happy to help! Submit your questions here.
Disclaimer: The information on our site is NOT medical advice for any specific person or condition. It is only meant as general information. If you have any medical questions and concerns about your child or yourself, please contact your health provider.