Do You Recommend Circumcision for a Newborn Baby?
Q: Hello Dr., I want to ask you if you recommend doing the circumcision for a newborn baby?
A: Since there is seldom a medical reason for circumcising a baby, we leave the decision completely up to the parents. Once upon a time, circumcision was considered routine for many newborns, depending on a family’s norm or religious belief. In the past 50 years, more and more parents are asking why they should circumcise their babies if there is no medical reason.
Guidelines For Circumcisions
If you do decide to have your baby circumcised, here are a few guidelines:
- There’s no reason to rush it (i.e., have it done in the hospital before you take your newborn home).
- It can be done easily in your pediatrician’s office. In Jewish families, ritual circumcision is done on the eighth day. But otherwise, being that there are so many important mother/baby interactions that take place in the early newborn period, such as beginning breastfeeding, bonding, touch, comfort, welcoming your baby into the world, it doesn’t seem wise to interrupt this normally peaceful entry to have the circumcision done in the first day or two.
- Be sure to insist that it is done with a local anesthetic, called a penile block. Painless circumcision should be a birthright!
Guidelines For No Circumcision
If you choose to leave the foreskin intact, here are some guidelines for that:
- An intact foreskin protects the head of the penis from irritation from rubbing against wet and soiled diapers. So, do not forcibly retract the foreskin – let it naturally happen. You may have to remind your pediatrician of this since the older school of thought was to do a gentle (or not so gentle) retraction on every diaper change.
- In around 50 percent of babies, the foreskin naturally loosens and retracts on its own by the age of two. By five years, nearly all foreskins will completely retract. Every time your baby gets an erection, the foreskin will naturally stretch. Forcibly retracting the foreskin, no matter how gently done, besides being painful, risks an infection. In other words: Leave the foreskin alone.
Once the foreskin naturally retracts, gently wipe out the whitish secretions, called smegma, that collect between the penis and the foreskin itself. You can do this as a routine part of bathing, and your boy will eventually learn to do it himself.
- Don’t worry that your boy will be different from his peers. Right now, it’s about 50/50 as circumcision rates continue to stabilize in our culture.
- And to relieve any remaining worry, circumcision has not been shown to prevent sexually transmitted diseases, and cancer of the penis is extremely rare.
Dr. Bill and Martha Sears
Martha is the mother of Dr. Bill’s eight children, a registered nurse, a former childbirth educator, a La Leche League leader, and a lactation consultant. Martha is the co-author of 25 parenting books and is a popular lecturer and media guest drawing on her 18 years of breastfeeding experience with her eight children (including Stephen with Down Syndrome and Lauren, her adopted daughter). Martha speaks frequently at national parenting conferences and is noted for her advice on how to handle the most common problems facing today’s mothers with their changing lifestyles. Martha is able to connect with both full-time, stay-at-home mothers and working mothers because she herself has experienced both styles of parenting. Martha takes great pride in referring to herself as a “professional mother” and one of her favorite quips when someone voices their concern about her having eight children in an already populated world is: “The world needs my children.”