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Baby Circumcisions & Healing

By Kay Ireland ; Updated August 14, 2017

Between 55 and 65 percent of American baby boys are circumcised each year, according to from the Nemours Foundation. Circumcision is usually done in one of two methods: the Sheldon clamp procedure or the Plastibell procedure. Depending on the type of circumcision you and your doctor have selected, the healing process has different care instructions. By following your doctor's instructions carefully, you can ensure the proper and quick healing of your son's circumcision.

  1. Talk to your doctor immediately after the procedure. Ask what type of procedure was used, since the aftercare instructions vary slightly for each type. Your doctor used either a Sheldon clamp procedure, where the penis is wrapped in gauze immediately afterward, or the Plastibell system, where a small plastic ring is applied to the head of the penis following circumcision.

  2. Keep your baby's penis clean by wiping thoroughly after a dirty diaper. Since wipes can be irritating to the circumcision site, use a wet, warm washcloth and mild baby soap to thoroughly clean the area after each bowel movement, then pat dry. Avoid excessive rubbing and ensure that the skin folds around the penis are kept clean.

  3. Apply a small dab of petroleum jelly to the head of the penis, if your doctor used the Sheldon clamp procedure. This provides a protective barrier between the sensitive healing penis and the friction from your baby's diaper. If your doctor used the Plastibell system, never apply petroleum jelly. The plastic ring around the penis is sufficient, and lubrication may cause it to fall off before the circumcision has healed.

  4. Change the dressings only if your doctor used a Sheldon clamp procedure and only if the gauze falls off before 10 to 14 days of healing. To properly dress the area, fold a strip of gauze to an inch square and position it under the penis. Wrap each end over the top and replace the diaper. Never use medical tape to secure the gauze and avoid bathing your child until he's healed. If your doctor used the Plastibell system, never use gauze. You can bathe your child as usual.

  5. Watch for any problems and contact your doctor immediately if you notice signs of infection, such as yellowy or smelly discharge, a swollen penis or excessive blood in your baby's diaper. Otherwise, a Sheldon clamp circumcision heals in 10 to 14 days, while a Plastibell circumcision heals in three to seven days, indicated by the plastic ring falling off your baby's penis.

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