Can a baby get an erection? You might not have heard of this topic before because a baby erection is just something that is completely out of your scope of interest.
The words "baby" and "erection" may seem like complete oxymorons. And, it may sound like clickbait but trust us, this is a legitimate question. And it's better to know about it now rather than get shocked later on.
Can newborns get an erection?
There will come a time when they're around four to six months where you'll see them touch different parts of their bodies: their hair, their toes, their fingers, and yes, their baby penises and baby vaginas.
You might find them tugging on their penises or poking their genitals.
At that point, you might rush to take their hands off of their private parts, because you perceive the act as "wrong" or "inappropriate." However, we urge you to hold back.
The scene is going to be extremely uncomfortable (for you), definitely. But, you have to take a moment to pause before you jump to conclusions because these acts are normal to your child.
To them, it's just plain exploration – the same way they are curious about their hair or their belly buttons.
When they find out that their mouths can create different kinds of noises, when they find out that their legs are so flexible that they can bite their own toes, and when they find out they can easily fall by standing on one foot — all of these are moments where your kid learns more about their bodies.
That is the same curiosity that they have for their genitals. It's a wonder to them that their genitals have several holes and that tugging on their penis can make it stand erect.
Why do babies get an erection?
Again, there is nothing sexual about your baby getting an erection. As we have learned from sex education, our genitals are very sensitive organs.
So a baby's penis becoming erect is simply a normal reaction to touch. This is why you might notice this happening when you are changing your bub's diaper or washing his penis at bath time.
Your baby might even get an erection from breastfeeding. Yes, that sentence can be anxiety-inducing. But, fret not because nothing about breastfeeding nor any of their genital touching is sexual to them.
They are completely clueless about the idea. The erection is caused by their feeling of comfort. They explore because they are curious. So, relax your shoulders, and shrug off your feelings of discomfort.
However, if you notice that your baby's erection lasts for over an hour, and you see any swelling, redness or discomfort on your baby's part, do not hesitate to consult his paediatrician about it, to make sure there aren't any obstructions of the penis.
What should parents do?
Now you know that baby erections are normal. The next order of business is what to do next. How do you react? What do you tell your child when you catch your baby boy playing with his penis or having an erection? How do you handle your baby girl asking curious questions about her lady parts?
Hold your horses on the no's
There is nothing wrong with your child exploring their body parts. So, don't tell them that what they're doing is wrong when you catch them playing with their genitals.
Telling them to stop exploring their bodies might even cause negative implications. For one, they might develop a secretive nature, because of your negative reaction towards their natural inclination to explore.
Some kids even feel discomfort with their own bodies, making it much more difficult for them to have high self-esteem or develop self-love.
There are also negative implications when you refuse to explain to your child what their private parts are, how they should be taken care of, and how to use them.
If you don't educate them, they will try to find out some other way, and the danger with that is the abundance of misinformation that they could get their hands on. They could end up learning things they shouldn't even know about.
So a negative reaction is definitely not the response you want to make upon seeing your child exploring their genitals or having an erection.
Educate with positivity
The only appropriate response to this situation is to be calm and informative. Yes, even if it's uncomfortable, fight the feeling.
Control the muscles on your face to ensure you are projecting a supportive stance on the situation. Once you've achieved that, you proceed to educate.
There are plenty of benefits to educating your kids about their bodies. For one, it promotes body positivity and invites them to have a healthy curiosity about their bodies.
Because they have a better understanding of their bodies at an early age, self-acceptance and self-love become natural to them. They also know how to protect their bodies from potential sexual exploitation.
What do I educate them about?
Their private parts
Use the real name of genitals, because using code names like your "nuts" or your "tacos" could indicate that genitals are some kind of a shameful topic that you feel the need to censor them with code names.
Use their real names, and point where they are – where the penis is, where the testicles are, where the anus is. The same goes for baby girls. Their vulva, vagina, clitoris, et cetera.
Also, be casual about it. You don't need to hold a full lecture. Do it during bath time or when they're getting dressed.
If your toddler has questions about their genitals, answer them. If you're thinking their questions are inappropriate, they aren't, because, again, they do not understand the concept of sexuality yet. So, don't leave any questions unanswered.
If you don't know how to answer their questions, you can direct them to resources like books or videos that can better answer their questions than you can.
Screen these books and videos before showing them though. The internet is crawling with content that only looks like it is child-appropriate when it's actually not.
Who can touch whose private parts
What you want your kids to know about their private parts is boundaries as well: who can see and touch their genitals, and why they can't touch other people's genitals.
Teaching your kid who can see their genitals is an important step in preventing sexual abuse. Predators do not care about gender, age, or status anymore. So, teaching your kids about boundaries is extremely important.
So, what do you tell them? That no one else is allowed to see or touch their genitals without permission, and that only you (their parents), their doctors, and their nurses are the only ones allowed to.
You also need to teach them that they cannot touch other people's genitals. This teaches them how to respect the bodies of their playmates, classmates, and basically, anyone they encounter.
When they know not to just randomly touch other people's genitals, they avoid becoming rapists or predators.
Normal but private
When you've educated your kids that playing with their genitals and having erections is normal, then you tell them that they ought to do it in private.
Teaching them this part also helps them understand boundaries because they can learn all they want about their bodies when exploring their own. But, they shouldn't be learning such things through another person's body.
When they ask you why, you bring them back to your point about who can see and touch one's genitals.
Since they are not a parent or a doctor of another kid whose body they want to explore, they cannot learn about the human body that way.
So, if your kid is really curious because they noticed that men's and women's bodies are different, you can direct them to helpful resources instead.
Go for colourful books that wonderfully explain genitals of different kinds to kids; there are hundreds of them online. All you need is to educate yourself too.
So, when your kid is caught playing with their genitals or having an erection, are you going to cringe or slap their hands? Are we going to let them know all about their bodies in some other (probably dangerous) way? Of course not.
We are going to teach our kids to love their bodies. And, we are not going to shame them for having the healthy curiosity of a kid.