Is it normal for babies to grab their private parts?
This is a common question among parents, who may worry about this behavior as not being normal for a litttle child – or in some cases, the toddler or baby is grabbing their private parts and crying.
Let’s take a look at a few reasons for this behavior.
My 12-month-old baby keeps scratching and grabbing her private parts all the time. She used to grab her private parts only at a diaper change but now she is trying to do it any chance she can get to it.
At diaper change, it is so hard to keep her hands away from it that I have to sometimes get my 8 yr old to hold her hands. She has been doing this for about 3 months.
Is this normal for a baby to be grabbing their private parts and what can I as her parent do about it?
Baby Grabbing Their Private Parts – Normal or Not?
Your question is a great one and one that many parents are a bit shy about asking, so thank you!
The question also made me smile as my youngest son was still grabbing his ‘bits and bobs’ at every available opportunity as a toddler!
Normal Sexual Behaviors in Children
So, is it normal for babies to grab or touch their private parts..?
Well, the simplest, and the most common answer is YES!
Sexual behaviors in children are common, occurring in 42 to 73 percent of children between the age of 2 and 13.
During infancy, the far most common behavior is exactly what you are observing – that the baby touches their genital area.
Toddlers and preschoolers also often touch their genetalia. Some 25-60% of all children in this age group appear to be doing this according to research. They are also often curious about what naked people look like and may try to look at parents, siblings, or friends when they are nude. Since they are unaware of the fact that touching “should” be done in private, it is also quite common that they touch themselves in public.
As the children grow older they will become more private with their sexual behaviors, and they will also become more interested in what sex actually is and seek information about it.
Of course, not all sexual behaviors in children are healthy and normal. What’s normal and not is assessed from a developmental perspective and not based on what we as adults may feel about the behavior (inappropriate, embarrassing, etc…).
In general, children that exhibit behaviors that occur at a much greater frequency or at a much earlier age than would be developmentally or culturally expected may indicate a problem, for example. They also typically involve interaction with other people and sexual contact. Underlying reasons can in these cases be e.g a emotional or behavior disorders, or family dysfuction including violence and sexual abuse.
In these situations, the child’s behaviors should, of course be assessed and the reasons for the behaviors identified and addressed.
All this said, a baby touching their private parts is normal behavior. Let’s take a look at what explains this behavior:
Why Babies Touch Their Private Parts
Babies are sensual creatures
For a start, babies are sexual and sensual creatures, so it is perfectly normal for a baby boy to get an erection and for little girls too, to get sexually stimulated. It is, however, not at all sexual in the way we as adults refer to it, but totally innocent and shows your baby is gaining control of her body, in that she has figured out she can do certain movements that feel pretty nice!
Some babies and children even rock or wriggle themselves off to sleep with these lovely feelings!
A new body part to explore
In addition, for babies, this area is normally concealed under the diaper. When you remove the diaper, the area feels cool… and free! Your baby is then drawn to explore a part of her body that she doesn’t usually have access to, in the same way, that she once played with her feet when she first discovered them.
Irritation and pain
If your baby is grabbing or scratching her vagina and is at the same time showing any sign of distress or discomfort (in other words, you feel that she might be grabbing at this area because something is irritating her), then check with your doctor to make sure there is no underlying medical cause.
Babies have other symptoms of urinary tract infections than adults, for example.
While it counts as normal behavior to want to scratch an irritated area of the body, this of course means that you need to address the underlying issue.
How to act as a parent when baby touches their private areas
As our little ones get a bit older, we teach them that some activities are private and we prefer them not to do it in public. But your little one is way too young yet. The most important thing is not to make her feel bad about her body and her responses. Parents that make a big fuss about it and say no, or smack hands away, or say yucky, etc are teaching their children that their bodies and feelings are bad.
Your little girl is perfectly normal and healthy and it is really good for her to kick without clothes on, as it develops the muscles better.
If you are embarrassed when other people are around, you can always distract her with toys and attention and games such as peepo, etc, or simply keep her diapers or pants on when there are people around.
There will be so much to get her attention and for her to explore the more mobile she gets, you needn’t worry he would become obsessed with this lovely feeling she can create so innocently.
When to worry
As I wrote above, a reason to worry would be if you think she might be grabbing her private parts because of irritation of pain. If she is red in the diaper area or there is a foul smell, or she seems irritated in some way, then definitely talk to a doctor.
Another reason to talk to a doctor, although this seems far-fetched in your case, is if the behavior would seem very age inappropriate or you are truly worried that your baby is reacting to stress or abuse.
Otherwise, I’d put it down to typical baby behavior and wait for it to pass so you can change her diapers in peace! It is a common behavior and completely normal.
I hope this helps :-)
Hey, moms and dads, can you relate? Add your comments below.
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