19 answers

Cleaning My 14 Month Old's Vaginal Area

Okay mom's, I could use some help.

My daughter is 14 months old now, and has never been fond of us cleaning her vaginal area. Before it wasn't a huge deal, we could still do it with a small struggle. Now she's bigger and stronger, and to try and clean that area it almost needs three people to change her. One to distract her, one to keep her from fighting us/moving her legs, and one to actually clean her vaginal area. And it's usually just me changing her diaper. She's strong enough that if she doesn't want her leg moved it doesn't move.

I know the importance of keeping this area clean. How can I stop this power struggle so I can keep her vaginal area clean?

What can I do next?

So What Happened?™

Thank you all for the great advice. Just to set some minds at rest, my comment about holding her down to clean her, I have NEVER done that, nor do I ever plan to. I was using that as an example/visual for you all to get the idea of how hard it was for me to clean her inner vaginal areas.

That being said, these past few days I've let go a little and not tried so hard to clean her, and the battles have begun to dwindle. She still hates having her mobility hampered at all, but it is getting better. She's still not too fond of me cleaning her, but as long as I stay on the outside she's mostly calm.

Thank you all for your great advice.

(6/11/08) Update to the update: I recently switched to the Pampers Sensitive wipes, and that really seems to help as well. Not to mention that she gets over the angry red diaper rashes faster with the sensitive wipes.

Featured Answers

My Pediatrician said not to fuss with this area too much, a nightly bath does most of the work and the build up of oils etc actually help protect her sensitive areas

3 moms found this helpful

I have no experience in this but maybe you could let her do it first and the say now momma is going to do it. Let her participate in cleaning herself??? Just a thought.

1 mom found this helpful

More Answers

I don't know what you do when you clean the vaginal area. Perhaps I'm misunderstanding because of past experiences in use of the term vaginal area. If you go between the vaginal lips she will feel pain or just an ucomfortable feeling. Wiping between the lips is usually not neccessary. If feces is in the area then it may be neccessary to look and if you see feces in that area clean that out as gently as possible.

Actually keeping a babies vaginal area clean is not so important that you have to keep struggling with her. Vaginas are self cleaning and a baby has very little secretion compared to adults. She is also not exposed, as an adult is, to things that will cause difficulties if they are not removed.

I've seen lots of babies who don't even get their diaper changed often enough and they don't have a UTI or irritation between the lips. They may have a severe diaper rash that does appear in the crotch but the actual vaginal area was OK.

If you give her a bath, that area will be clean enough without physically washing the area. Swishing water does the work. Or you can have her wipe between the lips with her hands. Don't use soap or if you do use just a little amount of a very gentle soap and quickly and gently rinse. Soap often stings. But remember the vagina is self cleaning and the creamy stuff that clings to the clitoris is normal, healthy stuff and can be left.

Have you tried telling her what you are doing and why in a sing song voice? You could also teach her to wipe her Dolly's between the legs space.

If you are just wiping the external pubic area and she objects try not doing it for awhile to break the cycle. Just give her a tub bath each day if you're concerned about diaper rash or urine odor. At this age vaginal secretions do not have an odor.

When you return to wiping do it quickly and make it a game. Perhaps give her a wipe so that she can wipe too. Sing with her. Perhaps about what you're doing and how you think she is feeling. Acknowledging that you know she's frustrated or angry might help.

My granddaughter began to not want to lie down after she began walking and especially when she was busy doing something else. I changed her diaper where she was and often while she was standing. If she did lay down she could continue playing with the objects that had been absorbing her attention.

I didn't always wipe her, either. She remained healthy. Running from me became a game. I would catch her and say, "Now I've got you. Lets get this over with." Sometimes she fussed and almost always she squirmed. I just did the job as quickly as I could. Sometimes she would lay down by her choice and sometimes she remained standing.

Holding a child down using 3 people turns the diaper change into a power struggle and a big deal. She's screaming and the adults are working hard to make her like what she doesn't like. How would an adult or older child feel if someone held them down and they couldn't even sit up? Babies have very little if any power and when you hold her down you take away the little bit of power she has just recently learned that she has; that is to move around. Once the issue of wiping became serious and has to be done she becomes frightened or angry or both. Anger often covers up fear.

Stop with the holding her down and wiping for a couple of weeks. Let her know that you're not wiping for a few days because it upsets her so much and explain why it's important to wipe in baby terms. then, when you start wiping again explain to her what you are doing when you externally wipe her. Kids seem to respond to a sing song voice when they won't respond to words given in a serious tone.

When she's objecting to changing her diaper give her a choice. (change it now or after we stack the blocks 6 blocks high?) Ask her if she wants to lay down or stand up? Give her choices. Make a game of it so that it's not so serious. Hold two wipes, one in each hand, and ask her which one she wants you to use.

If she still struggles big time, skip the wipe and let her up. It's possible that once she realizes that you will let her up that she will gradually become less angry. Give her power. Often we are in a hurry and just want to get the job done. We suddenly pull them away from their play. How would an adult feel and react if someone made them stop doing something enjoyable and they didn't understand why it was so important to be interrupted. When the adult protested they continued moving them. I don't know if you do the changing by removing her from what she's doing but I've seen it happen over and over.

There will be many causes for power struggles. Some are not worth beginning or continuing. I don't think cleaning her vaginal area is one worth continuing. Get out of the power struggle mode before resuming the cleaning.

Another idea. Perhaps pull ups would be easier to use. You can just rip the sides to take them off. She could actually do that. And then she could help pull them up.

8 moms found this helpful

My Pediatrician said not to fuss with this area too much, a nightly bath does most of the work and the build up of oils etc actually help protect her sensitive areas

3 moms found this helpful

Marda is right on track, as usual! (what a wise lady she is!) If you are concerned that your daughter is not getting clean enough, ask her doctor what is and isn't appropriate and needed. I actually had to do that because after 3 boys I wasn't sure how much cleaning intervention was needed! It turned out not as much as you would think and I would be very concerned with the mixed message you are sending your daughter. One, that it's ok to be HELD DOWN while some person is invading her private areas. Two, that she doesn't have a say in the matter. I know that 14 months seems pretty young, but involve her in what you are doing and inform her of what you are doing.
Also, I would definitely talk with the doctor about really what is necessary in the area of cleanliness.
Good luck
D. mom of 4. 3 boys 1 girl.

3 moms found this helpful

Very good advise Marda P! I had two girls (now grown) I never saw a reason to get overly concerned with cleaning their vaginal area especially to the extent of causing such trauma to them. To me as an adult is sounds scary being held down, think of how it might feel to your little one. Just saying.

I'm thinking twice about hitting SEND I really don't want to offend and I don't think any thing bad of you M. you're just doing what needs or you think needs to be done for your daughter but it sounds scary to me reading it, my heart goes out to her it might seem scary to her as well.

3 moms found this helpful

There are several things you can do. First, if it's just pee, just leave it alone. If you are having to get the poop out, I recommend the following ideas:

1. Use cloth instead of disposable wipes. The chemicals may be burning or irritating her.
2. Use warm water on the wipes instead of cold.
3. Give her something to distract her - a toy, a doll, a book, keys, etc.
4. Let her wipe up after you get the poop off. At this age they love to start to "help."

It'll get better!

2 moms found this helpful

Greetings! My baby girl is 15 months old! She too hates to have her britches changed. Mainly because she is too busy with everything else around her to be bothered. :) My peditrition has recommened that we wipe only the outside of the vaginal area due to the sensitivity of the internal area. Of course when there is pooh in the area we have to remove that but my doctor sugessted that we do not use wet wipes when doing that but a clean damp washcloth due to the chemicals in the wet wipe can be very irritating for baby girls. A spray bottle works great, a squirt in the area and a soft washcloth to wipe it off. Taylor actually thinks the water is funny. Try getting a wipe that you know isnt causing her irritation. Good luck.

2 moms found this helpful

HI M.,

As a nurse in reproductive health, I will tell you the same thing I tell my patients when they ask about douching... The vagina is like a self cleaning oven. There is no need to "clean" a 14 month old girl's vagina. Teach her to wipe front to back instead of back to front in order to not introduce bacteria near her urethra which can cause UTI's .. but aside from that, a normal bath in which she sits in water is all she needs to keep her genitals "clean" ..

2 moms found this helpful

My daughter is 5 and has also always hated this. Still does; hopefully that's a good sign that she'll keep that area private! I have found she gets cleaner by soaking in a bathtub rather than showering, but I still have to direct her to wash there or she won't do it. Just make sure she gets plenty of swishing in the bath! Good luck, this issue probably won't go away.

2 moms found this helpful

Hi M.: You have a lot of great advice. I second, third and fourth all those mom's that say you shouldn't make an issue out of this with her and that it is not necessary to really clean out her vaginal area (especially not by force) - unless she has a chronic rash that needs attention or there is feces within her vagina. The fact that she struggles may be because how and where you are wiping is uncomfortable for her, as well reflect her sense of privacy. It is also something she can try to control and therefore a sign that you need to back off your control and teach her to help clean herself. My daughter had sensitive skin and repeated rashes when she was in diapers, often extending to her vaginal area, and this required gentle cleaning and creams. I found it greatly affective to explain to my daughter why we need to clean and apply the cream.

If the issue is that she is getting feces in there (which at this age I would be surprised if that is a regular issue), then you may try washing her in the sink (we used the utility sink in our mud-room for "blow out" wash ups!). This made it fun since our daughter thought it was like play time to get washed in the sink.

Hope this helps!

2 moms found this helpful

I have no experience in this but maybe you could let her do it first and the say now momma is going to do it. Let her participate in cleaning herself??? Just a thought.

1 mom found this helpful

you could put her in the bath. I have two girls and have never had a problem keeping them clean. I never made a big deal about it, just used a wipe when they had a BM.

1 mom found this helpful

I have THREE girls with the youngest being 21 months right now. I've had the same problems and this seems to work for me. Once I stripped off their diaper and what not, I just hold her over the sink, turn on the water, and clean it that way. They don't have any problems with that and seems to enjoy it WAY more then me trying to clean them the other way.

1 mom found this helpful

Learn to change her standing up (worked for both of my kids- boy and girl). She is at an age in which she is learning that she has a little power and control over her life. It is a great thing to learn to work with it instead of go head-to-head. It is important to have really strong wipes for this (I like Kirkland). When they are little you need to block them into a corner or have them really playing with something. Yes, it isn't a super clean job everytime, but that is what bathtime is about at the end of the day.

1 mom found this helpful

I'm not sure it'll help, because I'm the mom of a boy. But, I've always changed his diap on the floor--we've never used a changing table because he's a roller and incredibly strong. I recently treated him for impetigo on his leg (not fun and super messy!). How I change him is:

1. Lay him on the floor and sit at about a 90 degree angle to him, with my left leg over his chest/stomach and his arms above my leg (asking him to find his eyes, head, etc. or give him a small book).

2. Change him and apply medicine using my right hand, while using my left arm as leverage on his right leg. I'd also occasionally catch his left leg when it kicks, but I've find saying "Feet are not for kicking...kicking hurts... when did you put on your kicking feet?...do we wear kicking feet in our house?...I know it's challenging to lay still for so long when there is so much to do...you're doing a really good job of lying still" (not necessarily in that order!) and also distract him by singing, asking him to find his book, eyes, etc.

When we had to use the medicine, I'd say something about what a great patient he is...takes so much patience to be a good patient...tell him why I was putting the medicine on his leg. Yes--I'm one of the mommies who tries to reason with a 20-m.o.! ;-)

Hope this helps! Good luck!

1 mom found this helpful

We almost always give our kids a toy to play with while we change them. One of my friends had to resort to a flip photo book a small 4x6 photo one and her sons flip through the book and look at pictures of mom dad...while they are changed. Best of luck.

1 mom found this helpful

She'll outgrow it. My son, also 14 months, is the same way. I think they don't want to hold still that long. Try distracting her with a toy or maybe music, TV? I don't know, just keep trying stuff until something works. And know that you're not alone. :)

1 mom found this helpful

My daughter (now almost 3) went through the same thing. People may think you are over-cleaning, but even a quick swipe to check for poop was an ordeal for us. And, if I wasn't able to get her clean enough she did develop itchy redness with odor. Baths helped, but the most important thing I did was acknowledge her discomfort and use a WARM, soft washcloth instead of a cold wipe. Thankfully, my daughter potty trained by her 2nd birthday so then the poop issue was void. Hopefully, you will have the same good fortune!

1 mom found this helpful

You take a diaper wipe and wipe from front to back, just as you would do to yourself when you use the toilet. Cleaning the vaginal area? Not a project, a simple swipe. If you're rubbing and prodding, she's probably sore or it's painful. If she's having a discharge of any sorts, I suggest you go to your doctor to verify the problem.

1 mom found this helpful

Maybe just clean it well during her bathtime, and maybe she won't notice as much if you are washing her and then kinda "sneak up on her" so she doesn't quite expect it? And it might be more soothing if you are cleaning with a washcloth and warm water?

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