Pinterest Hidden Image

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 little 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.

baby grabbing private partsPin

Mom’s Question:
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 sometimes have to 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 grab 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 still grabbed his ‘bits and bobs’ at every 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 observe- the baby touches their genital area.

Toddlers and preschoolers also often touch their genitalia. According to research, some 25-60% of children in this age group appear to be doing this. 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 for them to 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., emotional or behavior disorders or family dysfunction, including violence and sexual abuse.

In these situations, the child’s behaviors should be assessed, and the reasons for the behaviors should be 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 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 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 means that you need to address the underlying issue.

How to act as a parent when a 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 them 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, attention, and games such as peepo, etc., or simply keep her diapers or pants on when people are around.

There will be so much to get her attention, and for her to explore the more mobile she gets, you needn’t worry that she will 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 or pain. If she is red in the diaper area, has a foul smell, or 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.

Read Next

Research References

Leave a Reply

This Post Has 13 Comments

  1. kathy

    My mother saw my younger sister touch herself when she was three and told her ” sex is naughty ” yelled at her , now my sister is 31 , never married , no boyfriend and is involved in the purity movement of her own doing She told me she has no interest in sex and says it with a very defensive tone

    Our mother still has a rigid attitude toward sex, she always said sex is for making babies only

    I left home at 18 and got married, no kids by choice, my sister lives with mom and dad sometimes and aunt sometimes

    Dad was never like this, mom controls dad but dad doesn’t mind

  2. Sara Owen

    My granddaughter grabs her crutch area, really tenses up & seems to be in distress. She pants while this is happening and it seems almost like a a contraction. Once it passes she’ll carry on what she was doing but yesterday it seemed this was happening almost every 5 minutes I even gave her a bath to try to distract her (which she normally loves) but she continued the clutching of the vaginal area. I’ve had her to the Drs 2x but he just says it’s normal behaviour. It’s quite distressing to watch.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Sara,
      This sounds like she is in pain. She doesn’t have a diaper rash or other irritation? Or does she seem to enjoy in? In such a case, the Dr is right; it is normal behavior.

  3. Dale

    my granddaughter touches her self lots n seem itchy on her private ,which is now kinda red n puffy n smelly order I soaked her in tub for a bit hoping it will help her and put polysporn for itchy

  4. Mrs humphrey

    Hi,plz I need baby is2yrs old and suddenly she finds it so enthusiastic to touch her private part. I have also check to see if I will find any bruises or pains around her private part but non.I also noticed that some times when I bathing her or trying to wipe her private parts and she starts to smile. plz do you think it’s natural feelings or is someone touching her which is making her to get aroused?

  5. Daniel Garcia

    Why does a baby cry and scream when changing her diaper? She trys to cover her private parts and not let her self. We struggle putting her diaper on. Is it normal or is someone doing something to her.

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hi Daniel,
      How old is your baby? I think “normal or not” depends a bit on her age.

  6. Jamika

    I was relieved to see that it was not just my daughter having this behavior and for about the same amount of months as this lady’s child, my concern however is that her labia I suppose you call it is swollen at times, but I’m a little concerned bc it seems as though when she comes from being with a particular person who vibes don’t rub me the right way.

    I’m not sure if I’m just being overly protective or if something is really going on. I always check to see how her private area looks before she leaves and once she returns and I noticed it was swollen, could this be from her having on a wet diaper too long? PLEASE HELP. thanks

    1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

      Hello Jamika,
      Even if you are not saying it straight out, I get the feeling that you believe that this “particular person” may be abusing your baby. Am I correct? If I am, you may be in a tough situation depending on who this person is.

      If it is someone you can simply stop leaving your baby with, then do that immediately. Or at least make sure the person isn’t alone with your daughter. Your baby’s safety is far more important than the feelings of the adult in this case.

      If you are separated and the particular person is the dad, who has the right to see his daughter, then it is a more difficult situation. I think there are a few things you should do immediately:

      -Discuss with this person the fact that she is swollen and ask the person to change diapers more often. (Wet diapers can certainly be the reason.)
      -Contact a support group in your area or country. In the US and Canada, there is a helpline available free of charge and anonymously 24/7, where you can get help. Their website is and the toll-free number to call is 1-800-4-A-CHILD (1-800-422-4453). They can also help to guide you regarding the next steps to take.

      -Take your daughter to the doctor to check for fungus or other reasons for the swollen labia. You should know, however, that if you discuss the abuse with the doctor, he/she has a duty of care to report it, so you need to be pretty sure of the abuse in such case, otherwise, the whole situation can really spin out of control.

      If you do seriously believe that your baby has been abused, you need to take action, regardless of who is the abusing person. Depending on who it is, it will be a tough time for you, so keep hold of all happy times with your daughter. Also, remember that abused children can get traumatized as much by the reactions of the family as they do from any abuse, so surround your daughter with love and keep her routines as normal as possible.

      One last note (but an important one). The swollen labia may very well have absolutely nothing to do with abuse. It could be the diapers or possibly her scratching away. Look for other signs of abuse as well, such as pain, injuries or rashes. And remember to document everything.

      I truly hope everything turns out to be worries for no reasons. Take care,

      1. Jamika

        Thank you so very much, honestly you hit the nail right on. This feeling has been following me for a very long time and I have done all that I know to do including praying. I will call that support group and I too hope it is just something that was misread so to speak. I guess it bothered me bc this person would do and say things that seemed odd to me.

        Again I thank you for the information you’ve given me.

        1. Paula @ EasyBabyLife

          You’re welcome, Jamika, I am glad to be of help in your difficult situation.

          Let’s hope and pray that it is all a chimera!


  7. mom

    Using diapers all the time will make the baby uncomfortable and prone to itching. Just imagine how you feel during ur periods while in pads all the time!!! And if the baby has to undergo it daily!!!!

    Put diapers only when you go out. Start using underwears while at home and train ur kid to say about pissing or pooping..

    My son is 2.5 years now. from his birth I use diapers only while taking him out and at home I wrap him in thick cloth and change it every time he pisses.. and after 6 months I started keeping him in the toilet asking to piss once in 30 minutes so that he gets used to it and eventually when he started walking he started using his potty on his own whenever he wants to piss or poop.. and completely stopped diapers even on a long journey when he was 1.5 yrs cuz he will surely tell me whenever he feels to piss os poop…

    So best is to avoid diapers whenever you can…

  8. Annie

    Make sure she is clean and use distraction! Also use onesies – that will make the habit more dificult for her. Babies try all new things as they grow and can reach further. No need to worry about the behavior, but again, distract her with playing and interacting with her!