Balanitis and Judgment Fears

I have been struggling with potty training Norton.  There are days that he goes to the potty and it’s no problem.  Then there are weeks when he fights, refuses to go, holds it for eight hours at a time, begs for diapers, and does anything he possibly can to block potty training.  A couple of weeks ago, I left a status on my Facebook page about taking Norton to the hospital.  He was peeing and little drops of blood were showing up in the toilet.  His little penis (or what he calls his pee pee… with no encouragement from us) was just not right.  We ultimately got a diagnosis of balanitis.

Now that his balanitis is taken care of, I wonder how long he’s had it and how much it’s impacted life.  I hate that my own fear of engaging in circumcision vs anti-circumcision mommy wars slowed down getting Norton treated for his balanitis.

What’s Balanitis?Balanitis and Judgment Fears (Cloth Diaper Addicts)

Balanitis is a fairly common childhood infection of the penis.  Six percent of non-circumcised boys end up with it.  Three percent of circumcised boys end up with it.  It’s inflamed skin on the glans.  Sometimes it’s related to a yeast diaper rash and can be treated with your usual yeast diaper rash treatments.  Other doctors treat it with a topical antibiotic (think Polysporin or Neosporin).

Balanitis Ignored

When Norton was still tiny, I asked him during a routine doctor’s visit to take a look at the diaper area.  I thought something didn’t look right and was wondering if it was related to his circumcision.  My family doctor is Eastern European.  Circumcision was never a big part of their cultural norms.  He didn’t look and said, “I’m not an expert on circumcised penises.”  I should have pushed for him to take a look.  I should have pushed him to refer us to someone who is.  I should have done a lot of things to better advocate for my son.  After all, considering the commonality, it would have been caught by someone.

Balanitis and Silence

I didn’t have to keep my concerns to myself.  I have a blog.  I have a Facebook page.  I have Twitter.  Even though Doctor Google wasn’t very helpful since I didn’t know enough about what was causing Norton’s penis to be so swelled looking to actually Google it (and I was very, very careful about what I used for search terms because the last thing that I wanted was to find child pornography), I could have put my concerns out to the world of social media.  I could have brought it up on any of the mommy groups that I’m in.

Why didn’t I ask?  Quite simply, it’s because I have only ever been in one group where the subject of circumcision didn’t lead to an outbreak of mommy wars.  Ever.  (And that’s because my fellow fluffy bloggers are amazing, and we have enough respect for each other as friends and writers to not go on the attack.)  When a mother is concerned about something, the last thing that she needs is to have hoards upon hoards of women (which isn’t really accurate, but feels like it because of the loudness of that extremely vocal minority) screaming at her that she butchered her child and should lose custody.  Really, that kind of rhetoric isn’t helpful at all to anyone.

I didn’t want to deal with the drama.  That’s a problem.  No mother should ever be afraid of asking her peers for advice.  I’m not a shrinking violet.  If I was afraid of asking for help, how many other moms are staying silent on mommy groups even though they have questions that need to be answered and issues that need to be resolved?

So Norton’s balanitis went untreated until he started having drip drops of blood show up on his penis when he was going “pee pee potty.”  When he was sitting on the toilet, straining to go and crying because it hurt, that was when I realized that it was most definitely time to act.

The Treatment

When I found blood, I called my husband and we discussed taking him into the hospital for non-urgent care.  By going in, we’d be able to get on the spot lab results.  We thought maybe it was just a severe urinary tract infection… which of course, could have caused the blood and the pain.  After a couple of hours, though, Dr. H gave us the results and prescribed us an antibiotic cream.  (It has a texture like petroleum jelly, but is still an antibiotic.)  We were to use it twice a day for a week.  By day five, his balanitis was no longer causing visible swelling on his penis.  Things were looking normal.

The Result

Since Norton’s little penis started to look normal again, potty training has gotten better.  We have days on end now where he doesn’t have an accident.  He’s getting more vocal about telling us when he has to go instead of us suggesting that he should go.  Granted, he’ll still not go in the potty if he’s outside playing, but since I make going to the potty a requirement before going outside, that’s also getting better.  I’m also kicking myself in the backside for not pushing.  I should have pushed our doctor to either take a look or to refer us to someone.  I should have brought it up on the cloth diapering groups, regardless of the mommy wars that would have erupted.  I should have listened to my gut when I knew that something there wasn’t right.

Have you ever not pushed for something for your child, only to regret it later?

Image credit: basketman /

About Suzi

Suzi is an American ex-pat living in British Columbia. She's a cloth diaper addict, wife, mom of three, and President of the Prince George chapter of Cloth for a Cause.


  1. The circumcision debate is set to come roaring back to life in light of last year’s position statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics. While they won’t come out and recommend circumcision, they now support circumcision. Apparently circumcised men are less likely to catch and transmit HPV.

    That said, the Canadian Paediatric Society said they were going to review their position as well and it is either still under review or they haven’t changed it (which is to recommend against it).

    When the peds societies can’t even agree, I think it’s time to agree that penises are lovely either way, and stop making one another feel bad about it. It’s really easy to assume one is standing on the moral high ground when you don’t have a baby boy’s health to consider.

    I think this is the main drawback of social media – we’re too much in one another’s lives now and people think they have the right to be up in our business. My life pretty much reads as an open book, but there’s some stuff I just don’t share, for exactly the reasons you’ve outlined.

  2. Also, I’m glad his peen is starting to heal up! hooray for happy peens!

  3. WOW I have never heard of this before. Thanks for raising awareness.

  4. I appreciate that you posted this…

    Absolutely no judgement here! As a semi-crunchy mom that cloth diapers…I will admit that my boys are also circumsized. I understand both sides of the argument, but that shouldn’t be the issue here, what matters is you son’s health. I am glad that your boy is healing up.

    My 3 year old is having potty training issues and has also been having some redness in that area, which I assumed that it was due to detergent buildup…so this is definitely something I will bring up during his next well visit.

    P.s. – As a reader of your blog, I think you are an awesome parent…and thank you for sticking up for those parents who are too afraid to speak for themselves, like me 😉

  5. I feel you about the mommy wars on circumcision. So glad you got it taken care of and shared this with us. I have never heard of it until now. And if I have another son, then I know something that I should keep my eyes open to.
    Amy recently posted…Graco’s Pledge – Buckle Up for SafetyMy Profile

  6. I have three kids. My first two were trained at 18 months. My third, yeah, no. From the get go it was a control issue, even the pedi said it would be for this particular child. I read a good AAP article on potty learning, written for doctors actually, and it pointed out that late trainers usually had something else going on, when all other med issues were ruled out. Power struggle was listed and it was for us. That day, I said, “Listen buddy, you’re big. You’re nearly 3. I trust that you will go if you need to. Let me know if you need help.” It took a week or two, and it was SO hard for me to not remind, or nag, or say anything. I would clean up as necessary, and I just didn’t make it an issue. It took some time for him to really trust that I was going to stick to my word. But I did, and the kid is finally trained.
    Elizabeth recently posted…Captain Leisure Tees – Great Shirts & Philanthropy #sponMy Profile

  7. Poor little guy! At least the problem was finally diagnosed.

    As for the doctor, all doctors should be trained in both circumcised and intact penises. Yes, I am anti-circ and want my doctors to know how to care for an intact penis. At the same times, those doctors should also be able to care for a circ’ed penis. Otherwise, what good is the doctor?!
    Heather Johnson recently posted…Raspberry Sorbet AppleCheeks: Daily DiaperMy Profile

    • The thing that kills me is that it’s such a common infection that if he’d taken a look, I’m pretty sure he’d have realized what it was.

  8. I’m so glad to hear your little man is on the mend as that is the most important thing. As for the circumcision mommy wars, I never really understood it. We opted not to circumcise mostly because we didn’t have a very good reason to circumcise, but I bare no ill will towards parents who make a different choice. People really need to get out of other people’s personal choices and not make other moms feel bad for making what is a very personal decision. Thanks for this post and making folks aware of how being overbearing can have an impact on both moms and their innocent babes.

  9. I totally understand as a fellow mom who circ’d and now feels so much concern about. Thanks for sharing your experience- it could help out many mamas. It sounds scary, but I’m glad you listened to your gut. There should be no fear in asking for help. Everyone needs help sometimes.
    Ashleigh Swerdfeger recently posted…Unspoken Memories by Gabbie Duran; Cover RevealMy Profile

  10. I am so glad you wrote about this! I have been thinking that my little one’s penis has looked swollen at times and have asked my pedi about it a couple of times as well. She had said it looked fine, but now I will know to ask about the possibility of this.

  11. AWww poor little guy! You can’t blame yourself, mama. How are we supposed to know what any penis should look like. They are all different, and the doctor didn’t seem concerned, so that was probably comforting. He’s better now, and I am glad you shared this because I had no idea it even existed! Now he may be more happy to pee pee
    Allyson Bossie recently posted…Signed Copy of The Prodigal by Michael Hurley: 5 winners 10/20My Profile

  12. My little guy had balanitis due to a yeast infection. He’s not circumcised. Shoot, we shouldn’t be afraid to ask for help just because we decided to do or not do something that some people are extremely vocal about. Most of us do the best we can.
    Melissa Mendez recently posted…#SmallBizSaturday- Momme MealsMy Profile

  13. I completely agree, Suzi! When a mother reaches out to ask for help or advice, she should not be attacked or intimidated. That is completely the opposite of how women should be interacting with each other; after all, some of our “natural feminine virtues” include our compassion and our capacity to listen and understand. I’m really sad about how the circumcision debate has brought out the worst in some women….
    Anne Sweden recently posted…Nuby’s Under the Sea Teether Makes a Splash!My Profile

  14. I have never heard of this. I hope my little boy doesn’t get it. Thank you for the info and making me/us aware!
    Rena (An Ordinary Housewife) recently posted…Make it Monday: Homemade Diaper Rash CreamMy Profile

  15. I find this very informative! This is all new to me especially that I have a girl and not a boy. I haven’t heard of this but I did get a lot of new info from your post. Thanks a lot for sharing this to us 🙂
    Kareen Liez recently posted…Mothers and the Youth Unite for a Worldwide Breastfeeding Campaign 2013My Profile

  16. I’m so glad that you figured out what it was and that you’re back on track with potty training. I think as parents we all have those things that we don’t push hard enough on and later regret it. It’s a natural step in parenthood. When my oldest was only 3 months old she stopped sleeping but we thought that it was normal since she was so young. Something tugged in the back of my mind that it wasn’t right, but I didn’t push it. Instead we struggled, no one slept, and I thought it was just parenthood. Instead it was a double ear infection. I regretted not taking her in to the pediatrician sooner. I actually cried when we got the diagnosis. I had no idea. Now I don’t question myself anywhere near as much…but I think that also comes with more experience.
    Jennifer recently posted…Monthly Surprises from Citrus Lane!My Profile

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