When you’re about to become a parent, you have a thousand and one choices to consider. (Do we find out the gender? Should we use cloth diapers or disposables? What’s the deal with delayed cord clamping?) And if you’re having a boy, one of the biggest decisions you’ll have to make is whether or not you want to circumcise your son. First thing you should know? Luckily, there’s no right or wrong answer (you can read the American Academy of Pediatrics’s stance on the issue here), but here are three things to consider if you opt not to make the cut.
- You don’t need to do anything special to clean a baby’s foreskin. “The care of an uncircumcised newborn is simple—wash the area like everything else in the diaper region, with some gentle soap and warm water,” advises Dr. Jarret Patton MD, board certified-pediatrician and author of Whose Bad @$$ Kids Are Those? A Parent's Guide to Behavior for Children of all Ages. “There is no need to retract the foreskin until much later in life.” That’s because the foreskin doesn’t retract initially, so it’s not necessary to pull it back to clean it. In fact, doing so can actually be harmful. Eventually, the foreskin will retract on its own (this happens at different times for different kids, but it’s usually by the time they reach puberty). When your son is older, you (or, um, Dad) can teach him how to wash beneath the foreskin by gently pulling it back and using warm water.
- There may be a slightly higher risk of UTIs during infancy. Circumcision is a decision that’s left up to parents (and not a doctor) because it’s not essential to the health of the baby. However, Dr. Patton explains that one potential benefit of circumcision is that there may be a slightly lower risk of your son developing urinary tract infections during childhood. (But this risk is still minimal, affecting less than one percent of uncircumcised infants.)
- He probably won’t be the only uncircumcised boy in the locker room. Per the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 55 to 65 percent of all newborn boys are circumcised in the United States each year. And the procedure is much more common in North America, Africa and the Middle East than it is in Europe, South America and Asia. In other words? Your uncircumcised son is barely in the minority and shouldn’t feel like the odd one out.