Anesthesia Options for Your Son’s Bris
Even though the bris is one of the oldest and most frequently performed surgical procedures in the United States, there are many questions and concerns about neonatal circumcision, which is the same operation used in a brit milah, In spite of how common this procedure is, as parents, we are concerned about the safety of the procedure and seek reassurance in methods used to reduce the child’s pain. No surprise – it’s our own child!
We asked Rabbi Chaim Moshe Friedman, Certified Mohel, to help shed light on some of all our concerns. The good news is that since there is growing evidence that newborns experience pain, many practitioners, including traditional mohels (mohalim), are making use of anesthetics that are available today to minimize the child’s pain during the circumcision. What they found, according to Rabbi Moshe Chaim Friedman, is that when anesthesia is used, babies cry less, maintain a more normal heart rate during the procedure and are less irritable afterwards. It’s a win-win situation – Calming for the baby and just as important calming for the new parents!!
Rabbi Friedman tells us that he gladly spends a great deal of time reassuring the new parents and listening to their concerns. To break the ice, he tells them about the mohel who had the perfect solution for treating the baby’s pain. The mohel joked that if both the mother and the father drank a glass of vodka before the bris, the baby would not feel any pain at all! In practice though, parents’ anxiety is reduced when they are assured that their baby’s discomfort is minimized with anesthetics.
Brit Anesthesia Options
Rabbi Friedman highly recommends and uses topical anesthesia. It is applied only onto the surface of the skin; it isn’t injected into the body. It is the least invasive method of anesthesia. Since the bris takes place a few minutes after applying the topical anesthesia, there is sufficient time for the desired effect to take place.
Rabbi’s Tip: “As an additional step to assure long-lasting effects of the anesthesia, at the bris I also apply a bandage dressing to the wound that is treated with a mild 5 percent Lidocaine topical anesthetic. In my experience, this method results in a calm baby and, yes, calm parents.”
Local anesthesia or ‘ring block’ is another method. It is administered by injecting the anesthesia with a needle deep into the skin, close to where the incision will be made. Since the needle is injected into the skin, this method is a little more invasive than applying topical anesthesia.
Note: General anesthesia, putting the baby to sleep for the bris, is not done because the amount of risk involved is not justified for such a simple procedure. In addition, there are Jewish Law issues regarding a bris performed under general anesthesia.
Top Three Interview Questions for the Mohel
- What type of anesthesia do you use?
- Can you describe the process?
- What treatment or aftercare do you recommend immediately following the procedure to ensure no infection or illness?
Any worries that the parents had are forgotten once the circumcision is performed and the baby is put back in his bassinet. It is customary for parents, friends and guests to all rejoice at the simcha and celebrate the new parents’ and child with food and drink!
Special thanks to Rabbi Moshe Chaim Friedman for his expert advice and help. You can learn more about Rabbi Moshe Chaim Friedman on mazelmoments.