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Child Development & Parenting: Infants (0-2)
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Child Development & Parenting: Early (3-7)

Penis and Cord Care

Angela Oswalt, MSW

If parents or caregivers choose to circumcise their son, it's important to care for the site while it heals. Just as any cut, the circumcision site goes through a healing process, which includes scabbing and takes about a week. Care for the penis in that week by applying a protective lubricant over the head of the penis to protect it from chaffing. While infection is rare, call the doctor if the scab begins to ooze pus or if the entire penis becomes red, hot, and swollen. If parents or caregivers choose not to circumcise their son, they should be careful in how they care for and clean his genitals. When diapering or bathing, they should not force the foreskin away from the head of the penis until it naturally retracts from the head, which happens sometime between 3 months and 2 years of age. Forcing the foreskin away from the penis too early can leave boys more prone to infection.

Also in the first weeks of life, the baby's umbilical cord site needs extra care while it heals. After the cord is clamped and cut at delivery, it may take two to three weeks for the remaining cord stump to dry up and fall off naturally. During this drying process, be careful to use a cotton swab dipped in rubbing alcohol, or another doctor-recommended antiseptic, to clean the site three times a day or during most diaper changes. The antiseptic helps prevent infection and quickens the drying process. Continue to swab the cord site a few days after the cord falls off as well. Care for the healing cord by making sure that diapers and waistbands are not rubbing or irritating the site, and call the doctor if the area appears infected. Signs of infection include pus, extremely offensive odor, and a red, hot, swollen, and tender area around the cord site.