The choice to circumcise your son—or not—can be a difficult one. It may seem like everyone has strong and conflicting opinions on the issue. So, how do you come to a decision? The first step is to inform yourself.

What is Circumcision?

Circumcision is the surgical removal of the foreskinthat wraps around the head of the penis. It's the norm in the United States and Muslim nations, but uncommon in most other parts of the world.

Circumcision is usually done in the hospital (or in a religious ceremony at home) within 10 days of birth. When done in the hospital, doctors usually give an injection of local anesthetic to block the pain. The good news is that babies are super-fast healers. Usually within an hour after the circumcision, babies act normally and the area fully heals in about a week.

Why Do We Circumcise Babies?

So what’s the purpose of circumcision?It first became popular in the United States as an anti-masturbation technique… I think we can all agree that didn’t quite work.

Today, it's primarily done for religious reasons or to prevent later problems. Or, so that their son “doesn’t look different than Daddy” or to protect him from “being made fun of in the locker room.” But, I think we can all agree, he will notice that Daddy is very different (hair, size, you get it) and that most kids get made fun of in middle-school, no matter what.

Benefits and Risks of Circumcision

Uncircumcised boys and men can potentially have more infections (bladder and head of penis), more transmitted diseases, rare cancer of the foreskin and a fairly common problem when the foreskin never opens (phimosis) or it gets pulled back too far and gets stuck (paraphimosis) required medical intervention or rarely surgery. Of course, circumcision later in life is much more painful and psychologically traumatic. However, the majority of uncircumcised boys don't experience complications.

Talk about circumcision early with your partner.How do you decide? I ofen tell parents it's a bit of a no win, no matter what they decide. When you do it, it feels terrible subjecting your precious little baby to voluntary surgery. And, if you don't do it and your child has to go through the trauma of a complication and later circumcision, you will also feel terrible!

Once you come to a decision, tell your care providers so that a plan can be put into place.

Care After Circumcision

If you do decide to circumcise your little guy, you’ll want to change the bandage with every diaper change in the first 48-72 hours (with a glob of sterile Vaseline to keep the bandage from sticking). Don’t be alarmed if your baby sleeps more than usual in the first day or two after a circumcision—that’s his way of coping. After two days, the extra sleepiness is usually gone!

About Dr. Harvey Karp

Dr. Harvey Karp, one of America’s most trusted pediatricians, is the founder of Happiest Baby and the inventor of the groundbreaking SNOO Smart Sleeper. After years of treating patients in Los Angeles, Dr. Karp vaulted to global prominence with the release of the bestselling Happiest Baby on the Block and Happiest Toddler on the Block. His celebrated books and videos have since become standard pediatric practice, translated into more than 20 languages and have helped millions of parents. Dr. Karp’s landmark methods, including the 5 S’s for soothing babies, guide parents to understand and nurture their children and relieve stressful issues, like new-parent exhaustion, infant crying, and toddler tantrums.

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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.