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Babies and Masturbation

Chances are, once your baby discovers there's something "down there" (at about 6 months for boys, 10 months for girls), little fingers will be aiming there during bathtime and diaper changes. "Masturbation is normal and common in young children," says Lisa Noll, Ph.D., a child neuropsychologist at Texas Children's Hospital in Houston. It feels good, and those genitals are right there  -- why not check them out? It's the same impulse that leads babies to play with their fingers, ears, and toes (and it teaches them about body parts).

There's no need to make your child stop touching himself. (But do keep his nails short, lest he nick or cut himself as he explores.) But if you're uncomfortable about it, or you understandably don't want him doing it while, say, your in-laws are over for a visit, try distraction:

Put a toy in his hand, like a rattle or small stuffed animal. A mobile or crib toy's also great for holding his interest.

Make a face. The wackier, the better  -- your baby'll be so entertained he won't be able to turn away.

As he gets a little older and more mobile, he'll move on to other, less embarrassing, items to discover  -- like the rug, Daddy's beard, Mommy's purse....

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