Forcible Retraction of the Foreskin

Our pediatrician retracted my son’s foreskin. He told us that we would need to retract it daily after baths to help separate the foreskin from the glans.

I’m pissed off.

Our pediatrician is pretty crunchy friendly. While he has some pretty obvious character traits that not everyone will love, he has been a good match for us overall. He talks to us about research, the pros of breastfeeding, supports our decision to delay vaccination, helps us find alternatives to traditional parenting choices that we don’t choose to do, and loves babies. He is opposed to routine infant circumcision, which is why I honestly expected better advice from him concerning Cormac’s penis.

After the retraction and instructions to continue daily retracting of my son’s foreskin, I immediately started researching the issue. Most of what I found was emotion-based prose from intactivist websites, and while I can absolutely appreciate where they are coming from, I would prefer to address the issue with our pediatrician with peer-reviewed research in hand.

A friend sent me this link to an article that discusses the average age of separation of the foreskin in boys. 80% of boys will have a fully retractable foreskin by 5 years old, but forcible retraction can cause unnecessary pain, adhesions, and other issues that are completely avoidable.

Obviously, I expected more from our doctor. I have considered seeing a different pediatrician, and I am looking for a good family practitioner to transition to, but in the meantime, we will continue to see our current provider. Except that I am going to start skipping well baby checks and only going to the pediatrician for immunizations. Once we have a good family prac, I will have the kids’ immunizations done there.

I know some people think of not seeing a pediatrician as parenting sacrilege, but I completely disagree. I’m a responsible, loving, observant mother who would prefer to not take my healthy children to a germ-infested waiting room during cold and flu season so that they can be weighed and measured and declared “well.” They are developing well, have great immune systems, and show no signs of the early birth (excluding Cormac’s low weight).

When we do go back to the pediatrician I plan on being prepared with peer reviewed literature and anecdotal evidence from other parents. I am not the only parent whose son’s foreskin has been retracted by this pediatrician and I know he has lost patients over it in the past. Hopefully we can have a reasonable discussion about this and he can write on our file (in big black letters) DO NOT RETRACT!



  1. Maia Tellier -  November 29, 2012 - 10:20 am

    I’m so sorry!!! My pediatrician said NEVER do it (my son is 3 1/5 and still not retracted) and it will retract on its own. I agree with you that it is best to do research but how were you to know especially since he was knowledgeable in other issues.

  2. Leah Troglia -  November 29, 2012 - 10:21 am

    I didn’t get my son circumcised at all when he was a baby or well now that he is 9 either. His father wasn’t and so I had no issues about not doing it. In all honesty I know nothing about the penis and how it works so I left that up to his father. When he was younger they kept telling me I had to pull it back so that he could clean it and I did every now and then but always just forgot in the hustle of trying to get two kids bathed and in bed on time. Just last night I asked him if he had cleaned it and he said he did. I had him show me so I could confirm and he has full retraction from the head without the need of having to have it retracted professionally. I think regardless of having it done or not having it done the penis will do what it wants when it chooses to do it. But I can totally understand your frustrations. I didn’t want to bottle feed my son in the hospital but because he wanted to sleep for two days (cause apparently to some nurses birth isn’t enough of a reason for two days of sleep) they made me give him sugar water in a bottle. Then yelled at me cause I left my son with my mother while I went to get some food. Needless to say the nurse and I had a deep heated discussion on who I was and what I was doing with my son. Good Luck.

  3. Lacey S -  November 29, 2012 - 10:32 am

    Wow, I’m sorry that happened! I didn’t even think that would be something to look out for with a pediatrician. We just had our 12month well check and my kids are now sick with a cold. I have also decided to only go for immunizations. Thank you for this!

  4. Heather P. -  November 29, 2012 - 11:07 am

    Ouch! That’s not cool! Bummer.

  5. Erin -  November 29, 2012 - 10:40 pm

    This type of thing should never happen. We trust our health care providers to do what is best for us both in health and in our right for personal choice. He should be clear with you to begin with as to why he would do it and get permission. It is hard when you are unsure of things how to respond in the heat of the moment. We only go to the doctor for diagnosis of issues. Wellness checks seem silly to me if they are obviously well. Hope you find the answers you are looking for.

  6. Rachael -  November 30, 2012 - 1:26 pm

    I hope you’ll post a follow-up of what the doctor says. I’m curious what his reaction will be.

    When my oldest was a baby ( he’s now 7) we saw a pediatrician who wasn’t our regular one he started to retract it and I spoke up so he stopped. When I mentioned it to our regular ped ( the main one in the office) he said they used to say retract it and now they don’t… He kind of just blew it off but we made sure to stay away from the other ped. We moved a few months later and now all see a family med doctor and love her!

  7. Kristel -  December 1, 2012 - 1:19 pm

    Our pedi did the same thing and I wanted to punch her right then and there. We have since moved to a different state and I’m not sure what our new pedi’s stance is, but we’ll see.

  8. Julia -  December 4, 2012 - 12:43 pm

    That is such an important thing to know as more and more parents are choosing to leave their kiddos intact. We didn’t know either! We took our son to the ER for some difficulties he was having and they needed a urine sample… They forcibly retracted it to get a cath in until he was bleeding and in horrible pain. I was so pissed and the ER nurse (male) told me I needed to be cleaning and retracting it every day! I didn’t end up doing that (I felt like it was torture), but now I know and I have been so worried about it. It looks like my son isn’t having any issues from it (two years later) and appears to be beginning to naturally retract.

    Either way, parents need to know, so thanks for spreading awareness on the issue!

  9. Monica mommy of 1 -  January 22, 2013 - 6:04 pm

    Okay so i just went to the doc with my son…and they just pulled his pants off and took his lil winky and pulled his skin back..i almost hit her right thr..she didnt even ask me if this is what i wanted done…now im instructed to pull it back everytime i change him and put vasallen on it…he was crying in pain and i looked up what i could do to help him and BAM i find out that they are not even supposed to be doing this to him…now im mad sad and feel like a bad mother for even letting that lady near my son….WHAT DO I DO NOW?? i read to leave it alone i read to clean it….i dont want to listen to his doc and clean it if it was not even supposed to be done..but now im worried about infection…goodness…

    • Jessica Murphy -  January 22, 2013 - 6:11 pm

      Leave it alone. Don’t retract it. Don’t clean it. When he’s older (school age) have him pull it back when he bathes to clean it. Until then, it’s fine. I’m sorry you’re going through this too.

      • Monica mommy of 1 -  January 22, 2013 - 9:26 pm

        He is in alot of pain now…he keeps crying and his lil legs starts shaking and hes having a hard time getting around like he does…i dont know what to do now… is breaking my heart…

        • Anna -  March 19, 2013 - 3:06 pm

          You can message The Whole Network and ask them for the best advice. They are VERY knowledgeable on intact penis care.

  10. Jessica Murphy -  January 22, 2013 - 9:42 pm

    I’m so so sorry that your son has been harmed by someone you thought was a professional. Please do not return to their practice. Call the office and ask to file a complaint. Also, research your state and find out if you have a medical ethics board that you can file a formal complaint with. This is malpractice.

    As for your son – take him to a new doctor immediately. Get an opinion on what steps you can take minimize damage to his penis. I hope he heals well and has no ill effects, but go and have him looked at. If the doctor retracted it too forcefully, your son may be at risk for adhesions which can lead to complications and potentially even circumcision.

    Once again I am so sorry. I am incredibly angry that you were treated like this by a health care “professional.” Please keep me posted.

  11. marissa -  March 19, 2013 - 4:35 pm

    Omg I am so so.sorry…. I’ve read it all as well. We let him play with it, and he moves it. we were told that’s it. Don’t do baths just showers my lo is 13 months

  12. Sarah Thortnon -  April 2, 2013 - 3:11 pm

    new mommy of a boy- why is there a need to retract the foreskin? wont it just happen on its own? is this an issue with non-circumsized penis only or all? what is the point of it? need info to keep an eye out with our doctor, thanks

    • Anna -  April 2, 2013 - 3:45 pm

      @Sarah Thortnon-The foreskin will retract naturally during puberty (sometimes before). You never forcibly retract the foreskin ever. There is never a reason to. Visit fb pages and websites like the WHOLE Network, Saving Sons, and so on for more intact friendly info 🙂

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