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Baby genitals: care and cleaning

0-18 months

A few simple steps will help keep your baby’s genitals clean and healthy.

Cleaning your son’s penis

As with any part of the body, good general hygiene for the penis will help prevent infection and disease. It’s particularly important for uncircumcised boys.

The circumcised penis
If your baby boy is circumcised, keeping his penis clean is quite straightforward.

Gently rinse the genital area while bathing. It’s not necessary to use soap. If you’re going to use soap, choose one with a built-in moisturiser, and use only a small amount. Harsh soap and too much washing can irritate the penis.  

To prevent your baby’s penis from sticking to the nappy, it’s recommended that you moisten the front of the nappy with petroleum jelly, paw paw cream or something similar. 

The uncircumcised penis
Parents with an uncircumcised son often have questions about keeping the penis clean, because their child still has the foreskin covering most of the head (or glans) of the penis.

If your baby boy is uncircumcised, you need only clean the outside of the foreskin during his first 2-3 years. You can do this at bath time, and bath water alone is all you need. The foreskin won’t become loose or mobile until your son is 2-3 years old, or possibly later.

It’s normal for a milky white substance (called smegma) to gather under the foreskin. This is just made of dead skin cells and natural secretions.

Cleaning and caring for your daughter’s labia

Nappy creams, sweat and other substances can collect in and around the labia.

When bathing your baby girl, wet a cotton ball, hold her legs apart and wipe between the labia with the cotton ball. Start at the front and gently wipe backwards.

You might notice a discharge that looks a bit like egg white. This is perfectly normal, and you don’t need to clean it away. If you’re unsure about any other discharge, see your GP or child and family health nurse.

Don’t use vaginal deodorants or douches on your child. They can upset the natural chemical balance of the vagina and increase the risk of infection. Avoid using talcum powder – it has fine particles that your baby can inhale. Talcum powder can also sometimes irritate the vagina.

Bloody vaginal discharge at this age might be a normal response to mum’s hormones, so there’s no need to be alarmed. But if this discharge doesn’t go away, you should contact your GP or child and family health nurse.

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Raising Children Network is supported by the Australian Government. Member organisations are the Parenting Research Centre and the Murdoch Childrens Research Institute with The Royal Children’s Hospital Centre for Community Child Health.

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