Special tips on caring for boys and girls
A lot of what we do to care for our babies is gender-neutral; after all, there are a lot of faces to be wiped, tiny fingers to clean and little, kicking legs to manoeuvre into sleepsuits! But baby boys and baby girls are different in a few important ways, too. Here’s how to care for each of them properly.
When you change your baby boy’s nappy, you’ll need to make sure to clean thoroughly around his penis and testicles, to make sure no irritating residues of wee or poo remain to cause a rash. However, don’t try to retract his foreskin to clean underneath – it’s still attached to the head of the penis and will hurt if you try to force it back.
Baby boys often tend to do a wee after their nappy is removed – it’s a reflex triggered by the cool air – so parents of boys may want to keep a stash of clean flannels or face wipes nearby to avoid the ‘fountain effect’! When you put the clean nappy on, make sure to tuck your baby’s penis in pointing down; otherwise he may wee out the top of the nappy and cause a leak. In the first few days after birth, your son’s testicles may appear red and swollen; this is a normal side effect of the birth hormones he was exposed to, and should subside in the first week. If it persists, ask your health visitor to have a look.
If your baby has been circumcised, it’s best to clean the area very, very gently for the first week or so, using only water to avoid irritating the wound. Your doctor may also recommend some cream or ointment to apply. Letting your baby have as much nappy-free time as you can will also aid in healing by keeping the wound dry. If you still notice a lot of swelling or redness after 7 to 10 days have passed, contact your GP for advice.
Most of the nappy-changing routine is the same for girls and boys, with a few exceptions. The big one is that when cleaning a baby girl’s nappy area, you should always wipe from front to back, to help avoid bacterial infections.
In the case of really messy nappies, where poo has made its way up between the labia (the lips of the vagina), gently separate them and use clean wipes or cotton wool to thoroughly wipe the area from front to back.
Newborn girls often have swollen genitals in the first week or two after the birth, and some may even have a discharge from the vagina. Don’t panic; this is a normal reaction to the hormones your body secreted during the birth, and should go away within a few weeks. If you notice a discharge after this, or if your little girl seems uncomfortable and cries after having a wee, ask your health visitor for advice; it’s possible she could have a urinary tract infection.