Monday, February 22, 2010

Dear Babytalk

Please feel free to copy/paste my letter, or use it as a guideline for your own to send to Babytalk Magazine!  

You can submit one here:  
or email them at and include "backtalk" in the subject line.  
(thank you for everyone that helped with resources!)  

Dear Babytalk-

For the safety of baby boys with intact penises, I'd like to see a retraction of the information given on page 50 of the March issue of Babytalk.  The instruction to "gently tug back his foreskin and cleanse thoroughly" is not proper care of an intact penis and will very likely cause damage!  Parents should be educated about SAFE hygiene that isn't based on myths.

"There is so much misinformation regarding how to care for an intact penis of a boy. Many parents complain that their doctors are telling them to retract the foreskin to clean underneath when this is not true. We are not supposed to retract the foreskin of our sons, ONLY the owner of the penis should do it. The foreskin is naturally fused to the glans from birth until after puberty, all boys are different and they develop differently. Forcible retraction of the foreskin will cause pain, scarring and damage, and can become a problem later in life - which is the commonest cause of true phimosis."

This brochure has information about the consequences of forcible retraction:

Page 2 of this one has straight-forward information about PROPER intact penis care (and the whole brochure is wonderfully informative in other ways too):

Thank you for your time, and I hope you do right thing for the health of babies.  I look forward to seeing the right information published, and only hope that not too many baby boys were damaged by this poor advice.  To avoid future harm to children and possible legal action, please research these matters and verify sources prior to publishing.

Sincerely, Rachele B., a concerned parent and citizen


Lauren said...

HOLY CRAP!!!! I have gotten some free issues of Parenting and think it's mostly tripe...but this is reallllly bad too! :( I will email them right away!

Tiny Footprints said...

You go Momma! I love seeing what you write next and this definitely was needed. Thank you for fighting for the little ones who can't fight for themselves!
Melissa Ryall Haynie

Michelle said...

Thank you. I pasted your letter to Babytalk. It is so important to get this info out there.

Deanna said...

Ouch! I wrote them an email. I requested that they do a full page article about proper care. :)

MommaBeast said...

I realize I e-mailed you just a few days ago about publishing bad information (that bed-sharing increases the risk of SIDS when multiple studies have shown mother-infant bed-sharing DECREASES the risk of SIDS), but I'm afraid I've just found ANOTHER bit of misinformation.

In the article "The Supermom Transformation" by Sabrina James in the March '10 issue, she recommends that if your infant son's penis is intact, you should "gently tug back his foreskin and cleanse thoroughly."

Not only is this wrong, it's dangerous! Pulling back the foreskin before it naturally separates from the glans can cause scarring. It's basically like pulling on a nail to separate it from the nailbed so you can clean underneath it.

The foreskin separates on its own (between the fifth year or the teen years) and parents, nurses, and doctors "gently tug[ging]" on it will not help it.

The AAP doesn't even recommend pulling the foreskin back. Shame on Ms. James for writing such a poor recommendation, and shame on Babytalk for not checking the information before publishing it.

At the very least, Babytalk needs to post a retraction of Ms. James' recommendation.

The AAP recommendation for intact penis care:


mystic_eye_cda said...

Dr Sears has supported the site we should ask him to contact them.

Also look, they can't make up their minds!
For the genital area, gently wipe from front to back. If you have a boy and he's uncircumcised, don't retract his foreskin; a gentle cleaning is sufficient. Do the same for a circumcised penis, and wash under his scrotum.

(Me again: this is technically incorrect as once a circumcised penis is healed it MUST be retracted to prevent adhesions which cause further scarring and loss of sensation)
For boys, use a washcloth to cover his penis and avoid a surprise shower. If your son is uncircumcised, it is important to gently tug back his foreskin and cleanse thoroughly.
(ed: this is aimed at babies over the first "weeks")
If your son is uncircumcised, don't retract his foreskin; a simple washing with soap and water is all he needs (ditto for a circumcised penis). Wash and rinse well under his scrotum, too. Wash your daughter's genitals from front to back, and rinse well.
There's also evidence that uncircumcised boys are at increased risk of infection because of the way urine flows beneath the foreskin.

(Some studies suggest that circumcised babies are more at risk of UTIs, some do not. It seems to be related to forcible retraction. I've yet to see any suggestion that its because of the way the "urine flows under the foreskin". The explanation I normally see is that its because the foreskin traps bacteria near the ureter.)

Q: I have to do what to his penis?
A: Clean it, like the rest of him. If he's circumcised, wait until he's completely healed, then you can gently pull the ring of skin around the penis head back to wipe underneath it and avoid re-adhesion. For uncircumcised boys, don't attempt to retract the foreskin; just clean the outside as you would any other body part.

Also I like this guy:
ince then, however, he's reconsidered. "I don't see that the medical advantages justify it. Yes, circumcision might make urinary tract infections and HIV harder to contract, but that doesn't outweigh the fact that the reproductive organs were designed to work with the foreskin intact. Now, I would let my children decide for themselves as adults."

UGH Can you believe that Dr William Sears said this?!?!?!?
Some doctors used to perform a partial circumcision -- that is, removing only part of the foreskin. I discourage this practice because the foreskin tends to grow back. It can then form a lot of scar tissue around the head of the penis and become a nuisance.

TD said...

Yeah. Amazing that a PARENTING magazine could be so ill-informed.

The only thing that should be *retracted* is the article.

Moonstonemama said...

I would like to know if leaving a comment with them will result in a bunch of spam in my inbox. I wrote a couple of formula companies to tell them to stop sending me info and formula in the mail and now I'm blessed with regular e-mails from them even though in my comment I told them I did not want them to contact me anymore in any way shape or form.

Erin said...

My Letter:

In the March issue of Babytalk, you informed parents that they should retract the foreskins of their uncircumcised baby boys to properly clean them.

This could not be MORE wrong. Babies foreskins are firmly adhered to the head (glans) of the penis, and retracting them can cause permanent harm! This advice would be similar to recommending that parents clean "up inside" a baby girl.

An uncircumcised baby boy is simple to clean; you simply wipe the penis like you would a finger.

Premature retraction causes damage that can result in unnecessary circumcision, and further adds to the myth that an uncircumcised male is "unclean" and requires additional attention at diaper time, when the reverse is true. It is actually easier to care for an intact penis than an open wound in a diaper.

Please print a correction.

Thank you,
Erin & all the baby boys who were left as nature made them.

Anonymous said...

Here is my letter to Babytalk magazine. You can also check join on facebook and post your reply there. owns Babytalk.

"The statement to retract the foreskin and clean underneath it is unfounded medical advice that can cause severe harm to babies. As the American Academy of Pediatrics states: "Until the foreskin fully separates, do not try to pull it back. Forcing the foreskin to retract before it is ready can cause severe pain, bleeding, and tears in the skin."

You can read about proper foreskin care at the American Academy of Pediatrics site, which was last updated December 2009:"


mandy_moo said...

Oh my... That is scary!! I hope that parents who are informed and educated enough about not circumcising also got informed and educated (and NOT from this magazine!!) about how to care for the intact penis!!

the really cool thing about the intact penis is that it's actually much easier to care for than the recently circ'd penis!! My mom was pleasantly surprised at how easy it eas to change my son's diaper.

Hobo Mama said...

All right, I wrote them a letter! Thanks for bringing this to our attention.

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