Foreskin: Normal Care
At birth, the foreskin is normally attached to the head of the penis by a layer of cells. Over the next 5 or 10 years, the foreskin will naturally separate from the penis, without any help from us. So during the early years, only the outside of the foreskin needs to be cleaned.
- At 1 or 2 years of age, partial retractions can be started by the parent. This can be carried out once a week during bathing. Open the foreskin by pulling downward on the skin on the shaft of the penis.
- Once the head of the penis is uncovered, cleanse it with water and wipe away any whitish material found there. This is called smegma (smeg-ma). Smegma is simply the accumulation of dead skin cells that are normally shed from the lining of the foreskin throughout life.
- After cleansing, always pull the foreskin forward to its normal position.
- Retraction should be done gently - it's too vigorous if it causes any discomfort or crying.
- By age 5 or 6, teach your son to retract his own foreskin and cleanse beneath it during bathing.
In summary, foreskin retraction is overdone in our society. Keep in mind that any degree of foreskin movement is normal as long as your boy has a normal urine stream. There should be no rush to achieve full retraction. Full retraction usually occurs by age 5 and always occurs with puberty. As the foreskin naturally becomes retractable, cleanse beneath it to prevent infections.
If you have other questions about the foreskin, consult your healthcare provider.
Disclaimer: This information is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice. It is provided for educational purposes only. You assume full responsibility for how you choose to use this information.
Author and Senior Reviewer: Barton D. Schmitt, M.D. FAAP
Last Review: 6/1/2008
Last Revised: 6/1/2000
Copyright 1994-2008 Barton Schmitt, M.D. Parent Advice Messages.