If he is uncircumcised, it is important to gently tug back his foreskin and cleanse thoroughly.
Say what?! This advice perpetuates the myths that an “uncircumcised” penis requires extra care. It does not, in fact.
The advice is also wrong. Step away from the penis!
Folks, when you give your baby girl a bath, do you “gently tug back” her clitoral hood to wash with soap and water beneath it? No, of course not! (That would be a bit weird, frankly.) Same rules apply for intact boys. Wash with soap and water, and only the outside of the body. Never inside or under with the genital areas, both for boys and for girls.
So we intactivists demanded an –errr–retraction of this advice on the Parenting.com Facebook fan page. What did we get in return? A poor excuse for an apology and a reiteration of how supposedly problematic the intact penis can be. From Baby Talk and the doctor whose advice they’ve used now twice:
Gently tugging is not the same as retracting…Gently tugging/sliding back of the foreskin allows for cleansing of the penis and foreskin and removal of smegma.
Baby Talk, why would you use advice from the same hack doctor who gave the incorrect advice in the first place? Might you look to a pediatrician who cares for many intact boys? Or, perhaps, even a second opinion? Journalism at its finest right there.
I also want to take the time to point out something very true about intact boys: smegma is rare. My sons, ages 4 and 2, have never had it. Their pediatrician has never even wondered about it. None of my friends’ intact sons have had a problem with it, either. (Or their intact husbands, for that matter.) I’m guessing that it’s not all that big a problem for an intact newborn, either.
If you don’t believe me, check out the AAP’s own page on caring for an “uncircumcised” penis. Yes, they mention some normal smegma. Nope, they don’t mention “tugging” a baby’s foreskin to wash beneath it. They mention it as part of your older son’s body care, once the foreskin has already retracted.
And it will retract, without your help or fretting about it. All it takes is a bit of manual stimulation. I think we can all rely on our boys to do that, can’t we?
The thing is, we shouldn’t be obsessing about the penis. We shouldn’t douse the inside of the foreskin with soap. We shouldn’t be snipping off part of it in the name of familiarity. I could give you many reasons why you shouldn’t circumcise your boy at birth. I’ve discussed it on Eco Child’s Play before. But in the end, what it comes down to is this: It is not your body, and you shouldn’t make choices for another human being’s genitalia. Especially over aesthetics.
Intact penises are the standard. They are how our baby boys come into this world. So even if you choose to cut off part of your newborn’s body circumcise, understand that when you’re referring to those who aren’t circumcised, use the word “intact”. Because that’s what my sons are: whole boys. They are in their original form. They are the standard, not the deviance.
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