The hesitation we have in talking about reproductive organs can wreak havoc on new parents. Although you may be totally comfortable in guessing what’s normal for hands, feet, face, and limbs, there’s a good chance you’ll open a diaper only to reel back in horror, exclaiming “Dear God! Is that normal?” Interestingly, yeah, many times it is totally normal. But you won’t accept that conclusion until you get some education. So get ready to feel uncomfortable.
Call It What It Is
First, do you and your kid a favor and commit right now to calling their genitals what they actually are. Say it loud and proud: Penis! Vulva!
Using euphemisms like “wee-wee” or “her highness madame cha-cha” puts a negative spin on the body parts. The message you’re sending is that they can’t call the genitals what they are because those parts are somehow dirty and shameful.
Saying the words also indicates to kids that those body parts are something you can discuss with adults when necessary. It allows your child to communicate about medical issues they may be having, or to speak clearly about sexual abuse in the most awful circumstances.
This is empowering for your kid. Using these words doesn’t mean that you can’t continue to reinforce that their penis or vulva should be kept private.
The New Penis
Your kid’s penis is affected by hormones in utero. Because of this, it may emerge looking weirdly swollen. Being alarmed (or overly proud) of your kid’s super large testicles is unnecessary.
On the other end of the spectrum, don’t be freaked out by the size of your kid’s penis. You should be mostly concerned about if it’s doing its job, specifically launching surprise urine streams during diaper changes.
There are totally normal situations in which a layer of adorable baby fat could bury your newborn’s penis. It’s, not surprisingly, called “buried penis.” Your kid’s increasing leanness will resolve the issue. But know that a buried penis puts a kibosh on circumcision for awhile.
Finally don’t let erections surprise you. It’s normal and it’ll happen pretty frequently. It even happened in the womb. Yeah. Just think of that and gross out for awhile.
Luckily, a penis is pretty easy to care for. Just wash it with warm water. No need to pull back the foreskin if it’s there. The water will get up in there and do what’s it’s supposed to during a standard bath. Also, be careful around any healing related to circumcision.
The New Vulva
Again, your kid’s vulva may look strangely swollen out of the womb thanks to your partner’s hormones. This is normal and will subside.
Those hormones are also the reason for another startling normalcy: discharge and blood. As your kid’s body comes down from the flood of maternal hormones, her uterus may expel a little blood and clear, sticky mucus. Don’t freak out.
It’s also likely that you may see a white waxy substance in and around the labia. This substance is called vernix and once protected her skin from the environment of the womb. Resist the urge to clear it away. The body will eventually absorb this stuff.
Wash gently with water from front to back. You can very slightly and gently open the labia but no need to really get in there. It’s built to be pretty protected and clean as long as you know which way to wipe. No need to spend a ton of time in the area.
Penis and Vulva Problems
There are a handful of times when your kid’s penis may be acting abnormal. And there are some possible vulva issues you might be confronted with. Just be confident that you can handle this stuff. Here are some things to watch out for:
Urinary Tract Infection (UTI)
Generally due to bacteria, UTIs can develop into kidney infections if not treated in a timely fashion. A UTI will generally be accompanied by inconsolable crying, lack of appetite, and fever in extreme cases. Funky smelling urine and body parts will also be part of the equation.
This is neither a Harry Potter character or part of the Warped tour. It is, however, a urinary opening that isn’t at the tip of the penis. This isn’t too much to be alarmed by, and in many circumstances no intervention is necessary. But if it’s extremely far from the head of the penis, surgery may be required.
Up to 5% of boys may have an undescended testicle or two. Usually this resolves on its own.
This is when the skin of the labia becomes fused together. By no means should you try to pull the adhesion apart. It will often resolve at puberty, if not before. The only time it may require intervention is if it’s leading to increased UTIs or interfering with urination. Your doc should be able to advise.
And here you are, still living and breathing despite feeling uncomfortable for the last several hundred words. See? You’ve got this.
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