For many parents of newborn baby boys, Jewish or non-Jewish, there often comes concern with the circumcision process and how to properly care for it. The procedure itself dates back to ancient Egyptian times and in the Jewish religion, it became a tradition during the time of Abraham. Thankfully, the tools, process, and care have come a long way since the ancient days. The procedure is very simple, whether in the hospital or at a place of worship, but there are some important post-care instructions that need to be followed in order to promote quick and healthy healing.
Circumcision is the medical and/or religious procedure in which the foreskin, the excess skin covering the tip of the penis, is removed. There are various reasons for performing this procedure that include hygiene, religious beliefs or just societal norms. Regardless of the reason, the procedure is extremely minor and performed by doctors and certified mohels around the world.
At the Hospital – if the circumcision is to be performed at the hospital, the doctor will apply an anesthetic cream or injection to numb the area to minimize the amount of discomfort experienced by the baby. Next, there are three main methods of circumcision and they include:
- Gomco clamp
- Plastibell device
- Mogen clamp
Each device and method works by cutting off the circulation to the foreskin itself in order to prevent bleeding when the doctor surgically removes the excess skin.
Jewish Ceremony – circumcision began with Abraham and the Bible states that God commanded that every male offspring, starting with Abraham, shall be circumcised to create a holy covenant between God and man in the form of flesh. The act of circumcision, as commanded by God, “shall be in your flesh for an everlasting covenant.” Jewish circumcision ceremonies are performed today on newborns by mohels and take place on the 8th day of the newborn’s life. This lifelong bond between the male and God is to serve as a symbol of their religious beliefs and devotion to God. There are a couple of main differences between a Jewish brit milah and one done at the hospital. First, the ceremony is to be performed on the 8th day of the newborn’s life rather than the next day at the hospital. This is because of the need for the newborn to experience a Shabbat to purify the newborn’s soul before entering into the covenant of flesh with God. The second is that no special tool is used other than a scalpel.
Regardless of which method is used for circumcision, the post circumcision care will be the same in how to care for a circumcised baby. While your doctor or mohel may have slightly different instructions, but the general process and guidelines will the same as follows:
- First 24 hours – immediately following the procedure, the doctor or mohel will apply antibiotic Vaseline ointment and cover the area with gauze. After the first 24 hours, the gauze is to be removed and soaking in warm water can help with a painless removal.
- Cleaning – this is the most important step in circumcision care because the chance of infection is high due to being an open wound and the newborn baby’s ability to fight off foreign intruders. The head of the penis may have dried blood and/or fecal matter debris, and this is to be cleaned with hydrogen peroxide. Use warm water to cleanse the diaper area during the first 24-hour period. After the first 24 hours, baby wipes can be used again.
- Baths – it is important to wait a minimum of a full week and until the umbilical cord has fallen off to give your baby a bath.
- Diaper Changes – for the first week, at least, or until the wound is healed, it is extremely important to apply polysporin (a double antibiotic ointment) on every diaper change. This will help protect the wound from infection and rubbing against the diaper. It is also important to pull back the skin to prevent any adhesions during the healing process the Vaseline and ointment help keep this problem from occurring as well.
- Healing – typically, it takes two weeks to heal fully. Some babies may take longer, just depending on the various influencing factors. There are some normal conditions or signs that may arise during the healing process that includes:
- Slight swelling
- Minimal bruising
- A small amount of bleeding is normal (size of a quarter)
- White or yellow membranes are normal if they wipe clean easily
Signs to Be Concerned About
Like with any medical procedure, there are risks associated and sometimes the healing process isn’t entirely as planned. With that being said, you should always seek professional medical help when anything out of the ordinary presents because it is always better to be safe than sorry. Now, here are some signs to be on the lookout for during your baby’s healing process:
- Continued fussiness – newborns can be fussy at times but continued and prolonged fussiness can be an indication of increased pain or discomfort related to the circumcision.
- Urination difficulty – if the frequency of diaper changes slows down, your baby may be having difficulty urinating and should seek medical advice.
- Fever – this is a serious sign of an infection and should be treated with urgency.
- Foul-smelling discharge – discharge from the wound is normal, but if the material has a noticeable smell or is difficult to clean off (the wound itself is discolored), then you should consult with your doctor.
- Increased bleeding, swelling, bruising or redness – this can be caused by a variety of reasons but should be monitored and addressed if continued or excessive. Minimal amounts are normal within a threshold.
It’s important to remember that even though this is an extremely simple and routine procedure, proper after-circumcision care is crucial for keeping your baby healthy and happy. As always, it is best to consult with your doctor on the specifics of the care guidelines for your baby and to seek help if anything seems abnormal.
When it comes to performing a Jewish circumcision, you will want to find an experienced and trained mohel that will provide expert medical experience as well as strict adherence to the traditions of the religion. Dr. Andrew Krinsky has been performing circumcisions for the residents of Tamarac, FL, for years and the track record of satisfaction speaks for itself. It’s important that your baby not only is brought into the Jewish faith in accordance with the traditions but also in the most pain-free procedure as possible. Visit our website to learn more about Dr. Krinsky and the religious mohel services he provides.