Your baby girl might not have a tummy ache, seizure or a paediatric movement disorder...she could actually be masturbating.
Associating a word like “masturbation” with your precious, innocent baby can be very shocking. But experts say that infant masturbation is a normal, healthy part of development. It is nothing to be ashamed about.
It is neither aberrant behaviour nor sexual deviation. Your little one has no concept of sex at this age.
Take for example, my nephew. He would fiddle with his genitals during bath time, and we would scold him for doing so, saying it’s “bad.” But he was simply indulging his curiosity about his own body.
Though playing with his privates wasn’t full-blown masturbation, it prompted his mum and I to search the internet for articles about it. The information we found enlightened us and helped us set aside our own prejudice.
Infant masturbation (or gratification disorder) usually occurs in babies starting two months of age. For boys, it involves genital stimulation, but it’s less obvious in baby girls because it involves little to no genital stimulation. As such, it is often misdiagnosed as something else.
A past study conducted by the University of Rochester Medical Center found that infant masturbation in girls is often mistaken as a symptom of movement disorders.
How can you tell that your baby girl is masturbating and how can you deal with it?
When baby girls masturbate, they tend to rock, grunt, sweat, and move in a certain way that seems like they are having seizures.
This can be quite alarming for parents. And once they bring them to the paediatrician, some might experience even more anxiety once they learn that babies can masturbate.
But if this happens to you, stay calm.
Observe your baby for signs whenever they are in a car seat or when they’re bored. You can even note if they are masturbating while asleep.
Distracting your baby can stop this, but be prepared that it could also cause fits of anger and crying in frustration.
Masturbating can simply be stretching or stiffening up for baby girls
The American Academy of Pediatrics reports about the case of a four-year-old girl, who at five months of age, experienced bouts of stiffening. When she set down to lie on her back, she would stiffen her legs and stretch her arms. She would then make “grabbing motions” and purse her lips.
She would do this several times throughout the day. Paediatricians conducted neurological examinations and other tests, but they all came back normal. This strong urge to stretch frequently was simply an indirect way of stimulating her genitals.
However, these symptoms were also found in two children who were later diagnosed with epilepsy, reports the British Medical Journal.
Just make sure to bring your baby to the doctor immediately if you suspect she has a movement disorder. What seems like infant masturbation could actually be a bout of epilepsy. Try to record these instances to help your baby’s doctor make a diagnosis.
Is infant masturbation just the beginning?
As your child grows, they will naturally respond to all the urges and the overwhelming changes of their body. Even a child who has not hit puberty yet might feel the need to stimulate themselves physically.
Dr. Jonathan Mink of the University of Rochester wants parents to rest assured that masturbation in babies does not mean their kids will grow up to be “sexual deviants.”
“It’s such a common and normal behaviour that it’s nothing to worry about. It’s not appropriate to punish children for it,” he explains. “They associate it with comfort, like thumb-sucking.”
Of course, what behaviour to encourage in kids is still up to you, mums and dads!