Babies Exploring Their Genitals During Diaper Changes

Archived Q&A and Reviews


7-mo Daughter Grabbing her Labia During Diaper Changes

May 2007

My 7-mo old daughter has a habit of grabbing her labia during diaper changes. We've had several diaper rashes in the past, but this doesn't seem to be the cause as I don't see a rash currently. This habit is very frustrating for me because she sometimes gets poop on her hand! I've tried giving her toys (rotating every few days so she doesn't get bored), holding her hands, and saying NO firmly...all to no avail. Does anyone have experience with this? I'm going to call our pediatrician to get her advice and to rule out any medical problem. Any additional advice would be much appreciated. Thanks!

I think you are seeing what may be the beginning of years of genital touching. My kids are 3 and 5 and when they are naked they spend a fair amount of time playing with themselves (my son can keep himself busy with his penis for an eternity!). It is totally normal and I don't think you should discourage it (I only discourage it when we are out in public and remind my kids that they should only touch their private parts when we are at home). anon

Your daughter is doing something completely natural - the labia is a part of her body she doesn't get to explore due to being diapered, and she wants to check it out. Let her! Wipe quickly when she poops and if she gets poop on her hands, wash it off. Saying ''No'' firmly to a 7 month old is a mistake. Babies DO NOT need discipline - they need redirection. You are only instilling a bad feeling around a part of her body. You should be giving her diaper free time anyhow - and that will take care of both her curiosity and her diaper rash. It's her labia, let her play with it! labias are lovely!

My daughter (now 10 mos.) does this at every diaper change, too. (My son did as well.) I don't think she does it necessarily because it's her genitalia - I think it's just because it's there, and it's novel to have it in the open air. (She also grabs her stomach whenever I take her shirt off.) It's certainly gross when she has a lot of poop in the diaper, as you said, but other than that you can think of it as normal and not ''bad'' behavior. Your daughter is too young to respond to ''no'' commands. My tactic when I know the diaper is poopy is just to make sure I have an interesting toy handy, ideally a big one that will occupy both hands, so I can get the area cleaned up before she starts grabbing. A no-fail favorite is a string of shiny Mardi Gras beads! But if there's no poop, and she's not grabbing so hard that she hurts herself, I don't think there's any problem with letting her do it. Don't worry!

Baby putting her hands on privates during diaper changes

Dec 2004

Our daughter has recently begun to put her fingers in her private parts every time we are changing her diaper. She also puts her fingers in her mouth afterwards. We at first thought this was just curiousity but have recently begun to think there might be a bad influence causing this. She has started playschool a couple of months ago and we are wondering if it is the childcare provider that is playing some sort of games with her. It is our first child so we do not have anything to compare it to. Have any other parents had any similar experiences? She also keeps touching her mother\x92s breast and then looking for some kind of a reaction from her mother. Does anyone think this is strange or is it normal? berkeley parent

It is totally normal for babies to play with their privates - they are exploring their bodies and learning that their privates exist. Boys and girls both begin playing/exploring while in diapers. You may want to give her a toy or some other thing to distract her during diaper changes. Babies also seem to be very interested in mommy's breasts, so I wouldn't worry about that either. Hope that helps.

Sounds perfectly normal. anon

Have you given any thoughts to the fact that she might do it because it is pleasurable? All my kids have done it in enfancy, I never stopped them and it did not make me feel uncomfortable. I believe the discovery of their genitals is a totally normal phase for infants. None of my children, now approching their teens, have contracted compulsive masturbation habits. unworried mom

I think this is really normal behavior. I don't know if you said how old your daughter is, but I'll assume she's 6 months or older, give or take.

Babies are learning all the time and exploring new things, new have a body and if they touch something there's a sensation, and WOW...this part feels really good!!! As far as hands in mouth...babies put their hands in their mouth a lot. I doubt that she considers where her hand has been before going into the mouth (it could have been in a sand box or petting the dog or cat).

When she gets old enough to understand, you can teach her that touching her privates is something she can do when she's by herself but not in public (my opinion). mom of normal kids who did the same thing

I belief that both touching her own genitals and touching her mother's breasts is very normal. Also touching their father's private parts can happen if they get the opportunity. They touch everything they are interested in at this age, just looking at something is too abstract. And they are still a bit young to get the concept that touching these parts is not accepted. Preventing them from doing it at all can actually make it more attractive.

I've seen it frequently in many children, including even 3 year olds, on the playground. Some seem to do it more, others less. My own daughter (now 2.5) is very keen on playing with my breasts and nipples, but I don't like it at all (she's not gentle to start with) and I have to very frequently put her hand away or ask her to do it. She's very persistent it that, a bit annoying for me, it's become a struggle. Herself she doesn't touch so often. When she does, and I don't comment on that. That all said, if you have the feeling there's something wrong with her daycare, try to find out more. As a firrst step, can you talk to other parents in the daycare?

As to the hygenical concerns, that's a good point. Not that much a kid spreading his own germs and bacteria from one body part to another, but one kid transmitting them to another kid. It has been studied in daycare centers (video tapes). They observed, kids simply put their hands in their diapers, and they touch toys themselves and other kids afterwoods. What can we do about that? I don't know... Regular hand washing, especially routinely before meals certainly helps a lot. And giving the children healthy food, exercise, sun and fresh air to support the immune system. Julia

I wouldn't be alarmed ... both my kids went through the hands- down-the-pants stage around age 2 or 3. They were also both very interested in my breasts. I didn't make a big deal out of it; just asked them gently to stop if the behavior seemed excessive. From what my friends tell me, most kids do this. Sara

They all do that, and just wait till toilet training starts. As soon as that diaper comes off, the hands are down there ALL the time. Mom of 3

First off: As well as being a mom and the sibling to 5 others, I worked in family day care for 7 years as an assistant and i'll tell you, there are kids who just like to touch themselves. There is nothing more aggravating then being blamed for a child's curiousity about themselves. Also, there are other kids out there who like to engage children in curious games. (Which is most likely). Very rarely are providers (who are usually women) charged with such accusations and FYI, when you report something like that, it goes on a VERY permanent record with social services. Thus, making it very difficult for that provider to rec've future clients. My daughter is 3, and still squeezes my boob to get reactions. She watches me dress, she bathes with me... of course she's going to be curious. She already knows that I have a vagina and so does she. Therefore, we are one in the same. Making her more interested in herself because, essentially, although we have the same parts, mine look different. It's all very abstract right now.

Please explore other avenues before pointing the finger at someone. That's dangerous territory... also, if you have a history of reporting people, no one will ever wnat you in thier school, further making it difficult for you to place you child anywhere in the future.

Why not speak to other parents at the same school first. Maybe bring your child to her doctor for an exam. Also, you might want a therapist referral to find out if there's something in her actions that says something about your initial concerns.

But, like I said, some kids just like to touch themselves. We are ALL sexual beings and for some it starts earlier with pure unadulterated and flamboyant curiousity and for others it takes years and years of shyness and quiet exploration.

Please tread carefully.... as this is a very touchy subject.

I have two daughters - three and five years old and had a similar situation with my youngest. She always wanted to put her hand down her diaper or run around naked which was fine with us, but as she's gotten older we've taught her that her ''privates'' are only for her to touch in privacy. My husband and I used to make jokes about how advanced she was because she clearly gets pleasure from touching herself before, during and after bath, (and during diaper changes when she was younger.) I'm pretty sure it's something she figured out by herself because my older daughter has seen her behaviour and hasn't picked it up. The older helps us remind the younger one to go to the bathroom for privacy if she needs to do that. They also are both required to go into the bathroom to pick their noses or to say ''potty'' words. It's a kind of game. I figure that if she is so tuned into her body, she needs to learn how to explore in a way that's acceptable. As for the fingers in the mouth, she did/does that as well and so far there have been no problems. When she had a poopy diaper I would catch her hands, clean them, finish cleaning up and tell her it's not ok to touch poop. -D

Completely normal. Genitals are inherently interesting (shoot, as adults we're pretty fixated on are no different....) She's just doing what all kids do. Remember when she was really excited about her hands? Same thing, different body part. She does it during diaper changes because that's probably the only time she sees her crotch.

The thing to watch out for is poopy fingers going in the mouth. Now, that's nasty. Sara

I noticed after reading the wonderful advice given by all the parents out there about not worrying about your child touching herslef...I noticed that no one had mentioned anything about how the initial reaction was to blame the provider at her daughter's school. I think that's a very serious accusation...even in it's thinking stage. And in regards to the future involvement with other schools, providers and other people that will come in and out of your daughter's life, that is path you might need to explore concerning yourself and your own issues about trust. That statment had me most concerned. And I was hoping that more moms out there had something to say about it. Clearly Confused