Prior to having kids, I was one of those women who felt that the topic of circumcision was "for my husband to decide." I didn't really understand why it was a big deal, since "everyone did it." When the topic was covered in our childbirth class, my husband and I drove home in silence, horrified by the information we had learned. Part of me just didn't want to believe any of it. It couldn't be true, could it? My husband. on the other hand, was adamant that any little boys of ours would remain intact. From that point on we both made efforts to learn as much as we could and found the most informed opinions on the topic coming from other parents. One of those parents was none other than Katie Ward, NY State Director of Your Whole Baby.
By Katie Ward, Your Whole Baby New York State Director
More and more American parents are opting to leave their baby boys with all their functioning parts these days — this includes the foreskin of the penis!
The decision to leave a baby’s penis intact often brings with it many fears and questions. Here are five common worries that first-time boy parents have when it comes to taking care of their kids’ parts...debunked.
Myth #1: You need to pull it back to clean.
The idea that moms and dads should be attempting to pull back the foreskins of their children is a dangerously pervasive myth. Why is it dangerous? Simple: The foreskin of a child’s penis is typically fused to the head of his penis by a protective membrane (you can think of it as the boy version of a hymen). This membrane doesn’t dissolve until an average age of 10 years. Trying to pull the foreskin back before the membrane is gone can result in pain and trauma, bleeding, scarring, and sometimes paraphimosis, a medical emergency. (Plus, it’s awkward. “C’mere kiddo, time to clean your penis again.”) When you change your intact boy’s diaper or give him a bath, there’s no special penis cleaning involved. If there’s poop on his penis, just wipe the outside from base to tip. The foreskin tip acts like a sphincter muscle, closed tightly except during urination — despite what you may have heard, no lint will get trapped!
Ironically, this “only clean what is seen rule” does not apply to circumcised boys. If a baby has had his foreskin torn and cut away, the parent is instructed to lubricate the exposed head and pull back the remnants of wounded tissue that often re-adhere to it, at every diaper change, until healing is complete. Even with the most diligent parents, circumcised males often experience unnatural adhesions and skin bridges that cause problems into adulthood.
Myth #2: It should be retractable by (insert random age here): 3 months/6 months/1 year/3 years/5 years/8 years/10 years/etc.
See #1. The average age of full foreskin retractability is 10, and like with most developmental milestones, there’s a wide range of normal. Sometimes preschoolers can retract their foreskins; sometimes pubescent teenagers can’t yet. Both scenarios are normal. In any event, the only person who should retract a boy’s foreskin is the boy himself, after the membrane has naturally separated. Even when his foreskin is retractable, he does not need to pull it back and rinse during baths/showers until puberty hormones kick in. (If you’re worried, I promise, he’ll figure it out himself.)
Myth #3: There’s a heightened risk of childhood/adult infections, so meticulous hygiene is a must.
This is a myth left over from Victorian era medicine. A handful of folks desperate to continue the child circumcision ritual regularly kick dead research horses, attempting to suggest that routine amputation of a normal body part is based in sound science. But this view ignores the truth that the inner foreskin and head of the penis are mucous membranes, part of the body’s first line of defense against pathogens. It also disregards any inherent worth in this erogenous, self-lubricating, mobile, specialized adult sexual tissue. In our modern era, circumcision has been dubbed “the cure in search of a disease.” Fortunately, the international consensus is in: routine infant circumcision is not recommended.
The best way to ensure your child’s genitals stay healthy is to leave them alone. Soap and aggressive scrubbing are bad news for anyone’s genitals, as most adult women can attest!
Myth #4: It’s so much work.
There’s literally NO WORK. It is easier to care for an intact child’s penis than a circumcised one. The main challenge you may face is keeping everyone else’s hands off! (Find resources for protecting your son at the doctor’s and at daycare here.)
Myth #5: I won’t be able to get him to stop touching himself.
Moms of intact and circumcised boys alike are all too familiar with how much interest kids can take in their own private parts. Moms of little girls are all too familiar with this, as well! Self-exploration is normal and healthy for all children, and it’s also a wonderful opportunity for learning about boundaries and privacy (A.K.A. “This is something you can do in your own room, but not in Aunt Myrna’s living room.”) In a larger sense, we can help our children with appropriate boundary-setting and boundary-respecting skills by allowing them agency over their own sexuality — granting them ownership of the healthy, functional parts they were born with, and letting those parts develop on their own time, free from unnecessary or harmful intervention.
If you're seeking more information about intact care, foreskin functions, and circumcision-related issues — this includes parents struggling with a previous decision to circumcise — join Your Whole Baby’s Community Facebook group.
Welcome Lillian K., today's Welcome Mama contributor.
Infertility is frustrating, draining, distracting, hopeful, depressing and a somewhat haunting. In a word, it's exhausting. It takes something beautiful, fun and intimate and turns it into a scheduled chore, one that creates a roller coaster for the heart and hopes. Every month leaving a bigger hollow, filled with failure, fear and desire for the unknown, the unfelt. I spent the first five years of my life with my husband trying not to get pregnant and the next seven trying and failing, to change that
I had miscarried twice in my late teens and had actually thanked God for that, because I wasn't ready to be a parent and the man was not the One. I had to wonder then, if my body simply couldn't grow a baby. I sometimes raged or cried, that I could make anything better, anything grow, except my family unit, except a baby. Misery led to anger. Women get pregnant every day unintentionally, whether it's welcome or not. Drug addicts can do it, Grandma's do it, teens can do it but somehow, for some confounded, confusing reason, I couldn't. Here I was, lucky enough to be married to my best friend, a perfect partner, yet our dream of creating a family seemed unattainable. I gave up sometimes, just to not feel the pressure and to let myself just be happy with me, with us and life as it is. Then I'd let hope slowly, quietly grow again.
Eventually people stopped asking us when we're having kids. The avoidance of the subject brought both relief and sorrow.
The common theory as to why so many women these days are having fertility issues is because we are bombarded with chemicals. Our body products, lotions, medications, food, cleaning supplies, air fresheners, car exhaust, etc. Everywhere we go we are surrounded by chemicals and toxins. This actually makes the egg walls harder, so it is harder for them to be fertilized. Changing our cleaning supplies and body products to natural ones, using organic, simple ingredients as often as possible and avoiding toxins is healthy for everyone. We did that.
My husband brought home info about how alcohol also adversely affects fertility. I made sure not to drink more than 4 drinks a week (Love my delicious red wine.)
After loads of research, conversation and blood work to be sure we were healthy, we had decided to try to increase fertility naturally, and try again. I drank the tea. Red raspberry leaf and nettle tea, to be exact. We bought a new basal thermometer. We both took folic acid, zinc and Coq 10. My husband stopped doing his riding sports for a few weeks a month, to stay cool. I got massage, to relax. We had fun and just enjoyed our love for each other. The quiet hope was strong again but we were approaching procreation this time as a delightful way to just love each other, whatever happened or didn't happen. No rush, no pressure, no fear.
Then, one busy Monday after work I poured a glass of wine for when my chores were done. I ran around putting groceries away, prepped dinner, took care of pets and laundry, cleaned the bathroom and then I saw it. There were two. Two pink lines. After hundreds of single little lines, there were TWO! I stood in shock for a moment. I went outside to sip my wine and absorb this massive yet tiny, unbelievable but unmistakable occurrence. I felt the breeze on my face, looked down at my two hands, poured the wine down on the ground, held the stick up in the air and smiled, hugely. The whole world changed that day.
Hi. I'm Lindsay. Daughter, sister, wife, mother and collector of useless (and useful) information.