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My Baby Girl Rubs Her Genitals

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From a woman in Cyprus: I have an 11 month baby girl which i breastfeed since day  When she was about 4 months we noticed that she would lay down on her tummy with her legs open (like a frog) and start rubbing on her genitals, she would rub and rub and if we lifted her up she would cry, when she does this her breathing also becomes heavy. She would do this several times during the day. Then we noticed that she would do it when she was tired. So as soon as she started rubbing i would breastfeed her to sleep.

Now at 11 months she rubs all night. I put her to bed at about 22:00 and i may go and check on her at 00:00 and find her on her tummy rubbing. I put her on her side and some times she would go back to sleep but sometimes she will turn over and start rubbing again.

Yesterday she woke up at 2:30 i put her in our bed with us as i do every night and she was rubbing nearly all night, she would stop for a little while then started rubbing again. Until 6 o clock when i couldnt stand it anymore so i got out of bed and took her in the living room. Her pediatrician told me that she does it because she likes it.

I am very worried about this habit. She will go to nursery school in September and i am worried she will be doing this habit.

Is there something that a could do about it? Is it something i an doing wrong? Is it hormones from breastmilk? How can i stop her from doing it?

Please help.

My Baby Girl Rubs Her Genitals

Answered by on -

A.

Thank you for writing. I assure you: You are doing nothing wrong. It has nothing to do with breast feeding.

I hope the pediatrician checked for pin worms. Sometimes children rub their genitals because they itch. If she is medically fine, then your doctor is probably correct that she is masturbating because it feels good.

Infant masturbation is more common than you may know. It is harmless. It does not indicate that she will be sexually deviant when she is older. She simply finds it comforting, much like another child might find using a pacifier or sucking their thumb or dragging a favorite blanket around all day.

Boys do it as much as girls but parents don’t tend to be as alarmed as the parents of girls, perhaps because male masturbation is more accepted.

It is not helpful to punish a child for doing this. She is not doing anything “wrong”. She has found that touching her genitals feels good. This is a natural part of exploring her own body and discovering what gives her comfort and pleasure. Babies often use masturbation as a way to calm themselves or relieve boredom. It is only a “problem” if it is so intense that she won’t be comforted any other way or she hurts herself.

This behavior generally peaks at about 2 1/2 years old and lessens after that. Most children give it up on their own as they find other ways to manage tension or distress. If it goes beyond age 3, it is possible to then talk to the child about when and where it is okay to do it. Until then, it is usually fine to ignore it while at the same time making sure that the baby is getting enough soothing and attention from her parents.

I suggest that you talk to the nursery school staff and see if they see it as a problem. It may be that they are quite accustomed to dealing with little ones who self-stimulate in this way. They may also have some thoughts about whether and how you could help your little one find another way to manage her need for comfort.

I wish you well.

Dr. Marie

My Baby Girl Rubs Her Genitals

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APA Reference
Hartwell-Walker, D. (2020). My Baby Girl Rubs Her Genitals. Psych Central. Retrieved on November 23, 2020, from https://psychcentral.com/ask-the-therapist/2020/04/30/my-baby-girl-rubs-her-genitals/
Scientifically Reviewed
Last updated: 28 Apr 2020 (Originally: 30 Apr 2020)
Last reviewed: By a member of our scientific advisory board on 28 Apr 2020
Published on Psych Central.com. All rights reserved.