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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.

Genital hygiene for babies

It’s important to keep your baby’s genitals clean. This will help prevent infections and keep your baby healthy.

To clean your baby’s genitals, you can use warm water and a cotton ball. You don’t need to use soap. If you do use soap, choose a mild one with a built-in moisturiser, and use only a small amount. Always make sure to wash all the soap off your baby’s genitals.

You can clean your baby’s genitals when changing her nappy and at bath times.

Avoid using talcum powder anywhere on your baby, including around baby’s genitals. Talcum powder has fine particles that your baby can breathe in.

Cleaning your son’s penis

If your baby boy is circumcised
If your son is circumcised, gently wash your baby’s penis and scrotum with warm water and a cotton ball. Lightly pat your baby’s penis and scrotum dry with a soft towel.

To prevent your baby’s penis from sticking to the nappy, it’s a good idea to moisten the front of the nappy with petroleum jelly, pawpaw cream or something similar.

If your baby boy is uncircumcised
If your son is uncircumcised, you need to clean only the outside of the foreskin. You can clean inside the foreskin when it easily pulls back on its own. This usually happens when your boy is 2-3 years old, but sometimes it might not happen until puberty.

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 your daughter’s labia

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

To clean your baby girl’s labia, wet a cotton ball, hold your baby’s legs apart and wipe between the labia with the cotton ball. Start at the front and gently wipe backwards. Lightly pat your baby’s genital area dry with a soft towel. 

Don’t use vaginal deodorants or douches. They can upset the natural chemical balance of your baby’s vagina and increase the risk of infection.

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. 

It’s common for newborn baby girls to have bloody vaginal discharge in the first few weeks. This is 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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Last updated or reviewed
04-10-2017

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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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