Caring for the Uncircumcised Penis: What you NEED to know

 So you’ve decided not to circumcise your son?! That’s great! Circumcision is an unnecessary often traumatic procedure for a newborn and studies now show that it does not protect males against penile infection. You can read more about that here or here.

You aren’t alone in this choice to leave your son’s foreskin intact, more and more parents choose to skip circumcision. The problem with this new shift is that many parents and health care providers DO NOT KNOW HOW TO CARE FOR THE INTACT PENIS.

My good friend texted me a day or two after the birth of her son. The nurse at the hospital had tried to retract and clean her brand new baby’s penis. Many of you might be shaking your head in disbelief because you already know that newborn foreskin DOES NOT and SHOULD NOT RETRACT. The nurse helped further “educate” my friend by telling her to retract and clean the baby’s penis regularly. WRONG AGAIN!

While I’d like to go on a rant on that CRAZY, MISINFORMED and IGNORANT nurse….I’ll try to contain my rage. Circumcision has been such a norm in our society that we have lost the age old wisdom of how to care for a very important male body part. Most young boys were taught by their fathers how to care for their intact penis. Now, there’s a lot of confusion and false information floating about and I want to clear it up once and for all.

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 So why am I such a penis expert???? Well…I’m not, but a good friend of mine is an expert. Full disclosure: her son as well as her husband are not circumcised, nor is her husband’s father or grandfather. They KNOW how to care for the intact penis. They have done it for generations problem free. So let me share with you some of their secrets.

 

 1. Don’t Pull it back…..really don’t do it

This is the most important point. Before my son was born I was told by many well meaning people to make sure and clean my son’s intact penis often. The human body is created so perfectly that the foreskin PROTECTS your baby’s penis from bacteria and it DOES NOT RETRACT. “When the foreskin is left intact there is an antibacterial agent under the foreskin that helps prevent infection”(source). Your son’s foreskin will probably retract when he is 5 or 6 years old but  it may even be as late as at the start of puberty. Pulling it back introduces bacteria under the skin which is exactly what we DON’T want. Caring for the intact penis is all about being laissez faire.

NOTE: In the past few days of this post going live a reader shared this experience they had with their pediatrician: “Our ped, as part of an early exam, clearly ASKED us first, then gently placed index fingers on either side of son’s penis to make sure the tiny opening had a tiny amount of flex to it. He was explicit that this would be gentle and was only to observe that nothing was fused where it should not be. So to be clear, we didn’t, nor do we…retract our sons intact penis…our ped just gently observed the opening to ensure proper development and prevent a need for intervention down the line.” Her pediatrician is caring for the intact penis PERFECTLY and what he did is NOT considered retraction 

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2. Pull it forward or Wipe it off

Rather than pulling the foreskin back, the best way to clean an uncircumcised penis is to gently wipe it off. If you see a little baby poop got inside the tip pull the skin forward while your child is in the bath tub. This is the best way to encourage the penis to clean itself by pushing anything unwanted out.

Once your son is a little older and the penis retracts on its own you can teach your son to rinse it while in the shower or bath. Do NOT EVER use soap on the retracted penis, even the mildest soap will irritate it. 

 

3.Care for it like you would extremely sensitive skin

As I said earlier, make sure to use the mildest soap possible when your child bathes. BE CAREFUL as many of the mainstream brands that are specifically marketed towards babies are toxic and irritating. You can read more about that here . If you are looking for a mild gentle soap you can buy it here. I don’t ever recommend using conventional diaper cream either. You can make you own diaper ointment here or you can buy a gentle diaper ointment here. 

 

 4. Keep a watchful eye

Just like any part of your child’s body, if you notice something unusual keep an eye on it. A couple of times my son’s penis has looked red on the tip simply from being pushed in an awkward way in his diaper. Just keep an eye on it but remember not to mess with it. Usually the irritation will go away on it’s own within a day or two. If it’s not getting better follow your “Mama” instinct and  call your doctor or care provider. 

Remember the intact penis is completely natural and it’s designed to take care of itself!!!

ONE LAST THING! Please share this post with your friends so we can get the word out on how to properly care for our intact children!  

How to care for the uncircumcised penis www.cocoswell.com

54 Comments

  1. Mary Lanser

    Finally someone gets it!!!!!! Bravo! Just like we don’t separate labia of infant girls and “scrub” them or clean a vagina….. Foreskin is easily kept clean. Thank you for this! Can you send this to pediatrician offices? Most of them don’t have a clue!

  2. Emily

    Great information! This all may be common sense to my husband but it’s new to me.

  3. Rachel

    Ok so this is the internet and “tones” can be misconstrued, so let me preface by saying I have no animosity towards those who do or don’t circumcise. I’m genuinely asking as someone who is curious, and someone who does not have a little boy….

    How do you feel about the Biblical view/call to circumcise?

    • Hi Rachel! That’s a great question! My husband and I are both followers of Jesus so understanding the biblical view of circumcision was something we faced when making the decision about our son.
      Circumcision was an old testament law. When Jesus came he overthrew all of those laws. He rendered those laws pointless and now they are just tradition. The same reason we no longer need to sacrifice live animals we no longer need to circumcise our men. I hope that answers your question!

      • Roy Solagnier

        Another, point is, that parents are wrong and don’t have the right to decide for the baby boy body parts, since this is his right and his body, nobody has the right to touch his parts, he is a being on himself, an individual, this is his only decision. Stay away..

  4. Dawn

    Thank you so much. Spread this far and wide. We need to relearn the wisdom of our great-grandparents. This is the info I was looking for before my sons were born an It just wasn’t there!

  5. Ben

    I do not get the problem as i was never circumcised and i never had a problem. You just wash it like any other part of your body. I truly believe the circumcising causes alot of the problems men have with sensitivity and ED. It has a purpose and that’s to keep it protected so the nerves react to touch once exposed.

  6. Elizabeth

    I for one am very thankful that more people are speaking up about this. But I do have to say, coming from a mom of two young boys and a husband from a long line of intact males. I would never even pull it forward.. there is NO need to pull on it at all!! As a baby I would wipe clean as any other part and if I saw that it was turning a little red (as both cut and uncut do sometimes…) I would sit them in the tub with warm water a little epsom salt and apple cider vinegar and it would make them all better!
    Everything I read is about how you need to pull or tug on it to get it clean but you really dont! I would never do that to such a … sensitive… part of their body!

    <3

    • Thanks Elizabeth! I appreciate your comments. I have pulled my sons penis GENLTY forward a couple of times simply to push a little poop out out of the tip. Once they are potty trained I would NEVER do this. Obviously there are different opinions on this one and I appreciate your comments! It’ so important to remember that the intact penis is a sensitive body part that we should just leave alone!
      Love the epsom salt and apple cider vinegar tips too!
      <3

  7. Nicole

    So, we have one son that is circumcised and our youngest is not. I have been needing this information, because I didn’t know if I was caring for him properly so thanks for sharing. I do have a question though, what if somebody does pull back on it to clean it. Are you then supposed to clean it? Or do you just leave it alone? Let me say that we had an incident where somebody was watching him, and didn’t realize that they were not supposed to pull the foreskin back. So my bad for not telling them, but I freaked out and now wonder what I am supposed to do…

    • I’m sorry that happened Nicole:(. I have a friend who keeps a note in her babies diaper bag with instructions on proper intact penis care. I’m thinking of doing that as well and maybe it’s a good idea to have this note by my changing table at home.
      As far as your son goes I would give him a bath with a 1/2 cup of apple cider vinegar. That should restore order:). Keep leaving it alone and you should be set! 🙂

  8. Heather

    What if they pull on their own foreskin? My son will sometimes pull really hard on his. I ask him if that hurts and he says no, so I just let him do what he wants.

  9. Rebecca C

    I left my pediatrician because she has done this twice. The first time he was only a few days old and I didn’t know enough. The second time he was 12 months and I knew by then that it was not a good thing to do. She did it too fast for me to even get the words out to tell her not to, and I was so mad! Basically I just leave things alone and surface wipe only when needed. It seems his penis looks a little different everyday. TMI? That part of the body does move and change. But there has never been a problem with pretty much doing nothing.

    • Victoria

      My pediatrician did the same thing too. I had read to just leave it alone. I really freaked when she did it. So, we never had to wait for it to retract on its on.

  10. My son just turned 3, so the whole cleanliness thing is a struggle with him, not only that, but most days he “forgets” to put on underwear. Suffice it to say things tend to get a little irritated. When he gets red or it looks like something “iffy” is going on, we just dab a little coconut oil on it and it clears things right up (that, plus actually wearing underwear). Healthy, soothing, antibacterial… can’t go wrong with coconut oil (unless you’re allergic to it, I suppose…).

  11. I’m English and in the UK very few baby boys would ever be circumcised. I had two boys and they never had any problems growing up.

  12. Thank you for your openness and for sharing your research. My husband & I chose to leave our son’s foreskin intact but didn’t really have anyone to get advice from. So, we did our own research and eventually consulted a local naturopath. We have had zero issues or regret! I have also seen a tiny buggy of irritation at the tip and also have seen it go away on it’s own with minimal intervention. Our ped thankfully had quite a bit of experience with the fully intact penis – she even informed us that some of her family members had made the same decision. Good luck everyone!

  13. aimee

    My son is 8 years old and is intact, his pediatrician insists that if he can not fully retract his foreskin by next year it will be a problem and he will need to see a specialists. I think she has no clue what she is talking about. Is it true that some boys can not retract their foreskin until puberty??

    • Yes, I would get a second opinion on your son. I am not a doctor but it does not seem like a problem that his penis has not retracted yet.

    • Carla

      My son turns 10 in a few months and his foreskin still doesn’t retract. I’m not really worried, I’m sure it will, eventually, on its own. Even a urologist we saw (unrelated, kidney issues) had no clue how to handle an uncircumcised penis. He called in his partner (2nd doctor) and that urologist had no idea, either! My son has never had any urinary tract infections (*knock on wood*), even though he has kidney disease.

    • Christin

      I just want to second the second opinion 🙂 Your sons pediatrician is wrong. It is frightening how ignorant so much of the medical community in the US is regarding natural male anatomy (as evidenced by the thousands of boys who are unnecessarily, forcibly retracted by medical professionals each year!) I now live in Norway where people are surprised to learn the US is even circumcising their boys so I thankfully don’t have to worry about ill informed pediatricians. But I think the Whole Network website has a list of Intact friendly pediatricians you could check out!

    • mindy

      I took my son to urologist aka penis doctor because he kept saying his intact penis hurting. I asked when the foreskin should fully retract, he says some boys don’t fully until they are 17-18 years old. But basically it will do it own its own and not to worry about it.

  14. Laura d

    One thing that people might like to know: even if you care for your sons intact penis as described above (I do) it still could get infected. My son has a bit extra foreskin–described as a “beak” by our ped. It makes him more susceptible to infection. The first time it was infected he was less than a year. I could tell something was irritating him as he kept pulling on his diaper. So when I went to change him it was swollen huge and dark purple! I freaked out. Now I know what to look for so it doesn’t progress that far. A trip to instacare and a round of yucky antibiotics is something we want to avoid in the future. Since then he has had a few more flare ups but I treat it early and it’s fixed within a day. My other son is uncircumcised as well and hasn’t ever had a problem.

    • Oh I’m sorry about your son :(. Yes, unfortunately both the intact and circumcised penis can both get infected. That’s why it’s important for us to keep a watchful eye.

  15. JMI

    Just when I thought I couldn’t love you more…..

    Excellent article!

  16. Amanda S.

    Thank you for this. My son is 14 months old and he was the first on both sides of the family to be left intact when he was born. Everyone that I asked told me to pull back the skin to clean him (doctors, nurses, peds…). Poor baby ended up in the hospital at 8 weeks old with a UTI. They all said it was not because anything we did…. now we are much more knowledgeable and I really appreciate the insight you have provided.

  17. Anna

    My son was retracted early by a family member who changed his diaper. I didn’t know he was being changed and they were just trying to help 🙁 at his next doctors appointment I brought it up and she pulled back on his foreskin a little to check for infection. Was this okay? She told me she was not retracting it. It was not far back enough to see the head, just enough to see some inner skin. She said it was a little infected so she gave me some cream. How do we know if it is infected if we can’t pull down the foreskin? Is what she did okay? I am worried she retracted it again.

  18. Dr. Colton York

    Hi, all. I’ve read the comments and it’s refreshing to see so many people choosing to leave their children’s penises intact, or as I tell my patients, unharmed. We live in such a twisted world that teaches us to remove the foreskin, but we really don’t have a good reason. In medical school, we never really learned about the prepuce, since our cadavers were all circumcised, and it was assumed that that was a danger to the child and needed removed. In my rotation in OB and Peds, I saw three circumcisions, which honestly traumatized me as a young doctor. I always felt like I was damaged having been cut as a neonate, but considered it a human rights issue, and that’s all. Two of the circs I had to observe used lidocaine, but it was lazily done and didn’t appear to help the screaming babies. The other one used nothing for pain. The children were strapped down but shaking and screaming the worst sound I’ve ever heard. I knew then that this procedure, which I feel violates the Hippocratic Oath as a physician, needed stopped. I am an Emergency Medicine Physician (second year of practice out of residency) and I devote my spare time to research and education of parents and medical professionals against harming their babies. The parents don’t see what actually happens to the babies, and that terrifies me, know what the neonates are about to experience. I saw a few medical questions, which I’ll give my input to, as a doctor, but not a specialist. Disclaimer: this is for information only … Consult your own physician for medical advise for you or your children. The foreskin is literally adhered to the glans at birth and throughout early childhood. The first step in the circ process is breaking this bond, of course painful and the glans normally bleeds. This is why many cut penises (glans) have a matte looking finish or rough looking — naturally, it’s moderately shiny. As the boy grows, his glans will finish developing (depends on testosterone levels for time) and start to loosenup the prepuce. That’s when it will become retractable. Also, in parallel with the glans’ development. The shaft of the penis will grow, starting to stretch out the sometimes considered “redundant skin,” at the end of the glans. Sometimes major penile growth doesn’t occur until puberty, but my first step would be bloodwork. Most doctors will want to do a circumcision and be done with it (and they’ll probably shame you as a parent for not having done this). Put your balls on and same them back. Doctors are people too, and we sometimes insert our own opinions into medical advice. If by 13 or 14 there has been no retraction, I would call around and find a specialist which is an intactivist. If the skin is abnormally tight, it will need to be fixed (many different ways) before the penis grows more. Your other treatments for the unharmed neonate’s penis sound alright to me. I’ve never seen a forwskin problem beyond a UTI of a 16 y/o who refused to bathe.
    Best of luck and please help spread the word that it’s okay to be natural!!

  19. Russ

    I don’t know exactly how I got here but it must have had something to do with the uncircumcised penis as I have been the proud owner of one for more years than I care to mention.

    I liked everything I read here but there seems to be a lot of emphasis on not peeling a baby’s penis so I thought I’d mention my own experience as Anna seems to be quite worried about it.

    When I was born the doctor asked my mother if she wanted me cut and she emphatically (as she told me) told him he was NOT going to cut anything off of her baby boy.

    Here’s where it differs from most of the talk here. He told her she was going to have to retract it to clean under there at every bath. I guess she did as I remember her doing that in my earliest recollections of bath time. My father was a home movie nut and I have 8mm movies of the baby’s bath which seemed to be a family ritual every time aunts and cousins came to visit. So I can watch my mother showing all my girl cousins how to retract it and wash it. apparently the boy cousins weren’t interested.

    My mother made a big deal out of turning the retract and clean job over to me when I was about 5 years old. I do remember being disappointed that she wasn’t going to do it for me but she did check in to be sure I was doing it once in a while.

    I don’t know if I had any adhesions, there are no visible marks on my glans and I always thought that everyone could skin it back from day one until reading otherwise recently on health sites.

    Oh, I was born in 1940 when I guess it was fairly common to circumcise boys here in the USA. However I think the boys I grew up with were about evenly divided.

    Just wanted to say that I’ve never had a single problem with my foreskin even though it WAS retracted for cleaning from birth, if it’s any reassurance for anyone.

    • Artsy

      Thanks Russ for the info. I was told by a friend who had a son that I needed retract and clean. I did so from about 9 months until I found out not to do it. I always worried if he would have problems later! He’s 2 now with no problems but I always worried. Thanks for your reassurance.

  20. Anonymous

    I disagree. It’s nice to see so many personal accounts that are in favor intact penises but we all have to acknowledge that this phenomenon may have its drawbacks. Suppose if every single boy child in our population is left uncircumcised. As a population, we are scientifically at higher risk for a multitude of diseases such as HIV, prostrate cancer, urinary tract infections, etc. Although this might have a personal benefit for the few, we also have to acknowledge the bigger picture, that circumcision statistically still poses as a benefit for our population today.

  21. Lianne rea

    I live in the UK and we on the whole (bar religious decisions) we do not circumcise your sons. I’ve never actually seen a circumcised penis that’s how rare they are. so we probably take a more relaxed attitude. bottom line you don’t need to do anything the tip should stop poop etc entering and you just wipe the surface. nice to see parents are making decisions and not just following the norm. it’s a painful and mostly unnessasery procedure that does not make for a cleaner penis.

  22. Sheridan

    Julia while I respect your biblical opinion on circumcision what you informed one person about old testament law is false. What Jesus did when he died on the cross is eliminate the need for sacrifice because he was the lamb sacrificed for our sins he also rose again and ascended to heaven then sent down the holy spirit to reside in all believers. what this did was eliminate the need for us to go to a priest or rabbi to have our prayers heard because we now had a direct link to the Lord within us. what his death did not do is make old testament law invalid we still must follow the laws for example the 10 commandments. we must also follow all other laws within the bible. now it does not say anywhere that I know of in the bible that gentiles must circumcise there children but I would say that if you are Jewish that Law would still apply because it is written.

  23. Stephanie

    I’ve gotten so much flack for not choosing circumcision. I decided at 17 to NOT circumcise my son, and a year and a half later when my second was born, it was a no brained for me. I’m expecting my 3rd baby in a few weeks and if it’s a boy, no one in the world could convince me otherwise.
    this helps me so much, because it tells me I’m not doing anything wrong.

  24. Ljlunn

    Thank you for standing up for us moms who realize if it wasn’t supposed to be there, God wouldn’t have put it there. I am a Christian, and to anyone who questions my decision, I point them to Scripture that states that baptism is the new circumcision under Christ. Yes, he was baptized as an infant. I also appreciate the man who said that he thinks it’s partially to blame for ED. The book I read on it pointed out that the foreskin is highly sensitive… and though it is weird as a mom to think of my son having sex one day, nevertheless I have no desire to rob him of part of his happiness. At the slightest hint of irritation down there, I also use coconut oil, though I add a few drops of lavender to a 1/2 c of coconut oil to further ease it.

  25. Lisa

    Thank you for writing this article. Back in the early 80’s when I had my children we had to sign a paper that stated whether or not we wanted to circumcise our baby if it was a boy. I signed, “no” on all 3 papers. I ended up having 3 girls so I never had to get into “the argument” with my (circumcised) husband at the time but I knew, even back then when I was a teenager, that there just wasn’t something quite right about doing this procedure. Later I accidentally walked in on a pediatrician circumcising my friend’s newborn and OMG it was traumatizing for me so can you imagine how it is for the baby? I forwarded this article to my daughter, who is expecting a boy in July. I can’t force her to see things my way but I can certainly encourage her to be well-informed.

  26. natalie

    My son was born what they call a self circumcised penis because his uretha is on the bottom. He still has a bit of foreskin covering the head but part of the head is visible. Shouldn I still not be pulling what foreskin is there back to clean? I’m afraid that it will get infected and poop will build up under the skin.

  27. Amy

    I find it really interesting how circumcision is the ‘norm’ for boys in the US, as here in the UK it’s only done for medical or religious reasons – it’s really very rare. I used to look after babies for years and think I only ever changed the nappy of one circumcised boy. Also I’m a Christian and (as far as I’m aware) I know no boys that have been circumcised, so didn’t realise that this was as reason for this procedure. I was wondering why and when this became the ‘done’ thing in the US, is it in part due to how ‘medicalised’ birth tends to be there?

  28. Sara Anderson

    Thank you for the note about the gentle pediatrician! Our ped does the same type of exam as described at well child visits, just to make sure the foreskin is starting to separate properly. I’ve been a little nervous about it, but I’m glad to read that this type of exam is allowable!

  29. Misty Rupp

    thank you so much ive ben so confused on this matter hear say from everyone. now i know ..

  30. Rachel

    Thank you for this! We are Christian and my husband is circumcised but our two boys are not … For many of the reasons listed above… Leaving us a little unsure about proper care. Luckily seems like we’ve been doing things right. One time my toddler’s penis started looking irritated and a salt bath cleared it right up.

  31. Abby Scott

    Though you sound like your itching to rant at a ignorant and misinformed nurse, (apparently no one in the medical field is allowed to mess up or else they are called ignorant and stupid and should be sued these days, right?) I am an RN and I do know how to care for an uncircumcised penis as you described above 🙂 However, I think it is good to educate on WHY people do in fact circumcise their children. It IS a preventative measure. I have witnessed older boys who have had infections related to their foreskins and had to be circumcised, (very embarrassing to them) MANY older men who reached a point of dementia or Alzheimer who had to be circumcised due to phimosis, or infections of the foreskin due to them being unable to care for themselves properly anymore. Circumcision is also much more risky and involved surgical procedure when done past about 6 months old.
    Studies have proven than uncircumcised males harbor contract and harbor STDs much more than uncircumcised males. Also there have been studies done on premature ejaculation problems and it the statistics were significantly lower on the circumcised males. I know we are not under the Old law anymore, but I think everything God had them do in the old testament was for health reasons. It is still a good example to follow after.
    I am not against people who don’t circumcise their sons in any way! I just think a calculated well though out decision should be made before doing it or not doing it. Same goes with things like vaccinations… we do it to protect our children from future harm, not to hurt them with a needle. At the same time I am not for mandatory vaccinations. I just like both sides to always be presented. 🙂

  32. Amanda

    I’m having my first boy in July, I have three girls, and I was ready for circumcision if my first born had been a boy. I’m glad I’ve learned better through the years. I appreciate this article because the second thing I said in the ultra sound room was “omg!! How do you clean it?!” And I’ve been wondering for ages haha.

  33. Heather

    Biblical circumcision is very much different then today’s circumcision.http://www.cirp.org/library/history/peron2/

  34. Rachel ann

    Our old pediatrician retracted my son during an appointment and it happened so quick and I had no time to even say anything. I was really surprised and angry, especially considering the papers he gave me on “Caring For Your Newborn” had big bold letters that said “DO NOT RETRACT THE FORESKIN.”

    I continued to leave it alone since then, but I worry I need to now do more to check that everything is okay.

    I have a friend in Austria and she told me she routinely pulled back her son’s foreskin about once a week to keep it from fusing closed, and that her mother in law did the same to her husband when he was a baby.

    I guess it really doesn’t matter one way or the other in the long run, but I do wish leaving our boys intact was more the norm in this country so we didn’t have to google how to take care of them.

  35. Russ

    With all the talk of it separating by itself at about the age of 16 which seems to accept as fact that it IS fused from birth I was about to believe that my mother’s doctor was wrong. My mother was 36 when I was born and when she became pregnant she looked for the oldest most fatherly looking doctor in town so he was certainly an old timer. After reading about your friend from Austria maybe the old timer knew something that has been lost in time.

    Perhaps we are born with a retractable foreskin which later becomes fused due to NOT being retracted.

    I am certainly happy my mother routinely retracted mine from birth as I have never had any problem with it being fused and it has always retracted easily which caused me to suffer no anxiety due it not working properly, perceived or real.

    As for the idea that it creates more diseases, I don’t believe that as everything I read of recent studies says that is not true. I firmly believe it is there to protect the glans plus the more recently discovered facts about the additional pleasure it affords the owner and his mate which they never told us about in school when I was there. Of course they never told us anything about our genitals when I was in school anyway and all they told us about sex was “don’t do it”.

  36. Russ

    Amy, we had a well know cereal maker who espoused circumcision and he used all his influence attempting to get people to do it. Think Cornflakes. Although he also wanted girls to be circumcised which for some reason never took off. Possibly because mothers are girls and the thought of having this done to themselves was problematic while doing it to those horrible creatures known as boys was somehow satisfying. He was around at a time when women in America considered sex with their husband to be a “duty” albeit a very unpleasant one. His stated reason was to prevent that dirty act of masturbation by both sexes. I’m not sure how well that worked myself as I think having my glans exposed and rubbing on my clothing would make me want to do it often and I know girls get rings inserted in their hoods for the specific purpose of having them rub against their clits with help of their clothing seams so having it exposed to rub on the clothing would seem to defeat the purpose of circumcision.

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