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Of all the milestones you look forward to with your new toddler, from their first words to their first steps, masturbation definitely doesn’t make the cut.

Toddler masturbation (medically known as infantile masturbation) is a surprisingly common phenomenon in children between the ages of one and five. What is uncommon is new parents knowing what is happening and how to handle it in the best interest of their children.

Toddler masturbation is not as illicit as the common term for the phenomenon may convey. In reality, it’s completely innocent and natural. In actuality, not only is it natural, it’s also considered healthy.

How do you recognize it?

According to Dr. Thirunavukkarasu Babu in an article for the Indian Journal of Psychiatry, “Infantile masturbation: Pitfalls in diagnosis and possible solutions”, toddler masturbation usually starts by two months of age and increases and peaks by four years of age.

Frequency varies from once a week to 12 times a day, and duration ranges from 30 seconds to two hours. He also states that, unlike masturbation in older children and adults, infantile masturbation involves little or no genital stimulation.

Toddler masturbation cannot be discussed in the same manner as masturbation. Oftentimes with toddlers, as Dr. Thirunavukkarasu states, masturbation might mean no hand simulation of any kind. Your toddler may rub their private parts against pieces of furniture, their toys, and even parts of your own body until they climax.

James Palmer, a new father who recently found out that his two-year-old daughter had been masturbating, was scandalized that she could be entertaining sexual thoughts (which of course was not the case). He discovered that his daughter had been wedging her favorite teddy underneath herself and rocking back and forth until her body spasmed, after which a look of what he described as contentment would fill her face.

At first, the new dad feared she had a neurological problem and took her to a doctor, who diagnosed that it was infantile masturbation and nothing to worry over. (In the past, toddler masturbation was often misdiagnosed as some sort of seizure or epilepsy.)

Why is it happening?

Many parents like Dave fear that the habit is brought on by some sort of neurological or developmental challenge, or maybe even sexual abuse. In reality, it’s merely another way your child’s curiosity manifests. Exploration of their genitalia is born out of the same curiosity that leads them to explore a new toy.

The pattern of behavior often begins when a child starts to toilet train. They are freed from their diapers and suddenly gain access to a part of their body that had previously been restricted and out of reach.

In a clinical profile carried out by Dr. Heitham Ajlouni, masturbation in children was linked to reduced estradiol levels, but not to any other sex hormones.   

Should you worry?

The simple answer is no. Albeit a little embarrassing for the parents, especially when done in public, toddler masturbation is completely natural and nothing for parents to worry about.

What can be done about it?

According to Dr. Michele L. Yang and Dr. Erika Fullwood in a recent publication, parents should resist stopping a toddler from masturbating. Scolding or threatening a child is inappropriate, they contest, and efforts to stop the behavior forcefully will only reinforce it and possibly instill a sense of shame or wrong-doing as the child gets older.

In most cases, it’s just a phase that will pass (until rediscovered in teenage years) along with the child’s fascination with that region.

If your toddler is at the age where communication has become easier, teach them that masturbating is something done in private. Gently explain to them why without conveying any feelings of disapproval. Emphasize the fact that the behavior is completely natural and not a bad or shameful thing. You can liken it to the need for privacy during showers or potty time.

If you feel your toddler is old enough to understand, you can attempt to explain to them what they are doing. Use a conversational and relaxed tone when talking about it. An urgent or disapproving tone is easily detected by children.

If your toddler is too young to understand the concept of privacy, distract them when they begin to masturbate in public. Send them on errands or set up a game (such as a jigsaw puzzle) for them to complete. When in the privacy of your home and if at all possible, simply ignore it and allow them to climax.

As your toddler grows older, talking about sex as soon as they are able to grasp the concept is important. Use proper terms when describing sexual organs and activities to ensure they gain a full understanding.

According to the American Social Health Association, children who are afraid to approach their parents with concerns about whether they are “normal” or not (in terms of their sexual organs and feelings) may feel isolated and confused, which may lead to depression and anxiety. Children who don’t learn about sex from their parents may be receiving information (often incorrect) elsewhere – from peers, the media, and other sources.

Once you notice that the behavior has begun to affect certain behavioral tendencies, you should seek professional help. For example, if you notice that the habit has become the sole focus of your child, causing withdrawal from daily activities and human interactions, take your child to a professional.

Although medical complications resulting from the habit are very rare, the possibility of their occurrence is real. Excessive friction resulting from constant rubbing on toys and bits of furniture can traumatize their genitals, especially with girls whose private parts are more sensitive to this manner of trauma. In this case, medical intervention is necessary.

Make sure that the habit is not brought on by anything other than mere curiosity. Observe your toddler at home, at school, and when interacting with family and friends.

In a few cases, the habit may be brought on by a sense of low self-esteem or a distinct lack of communication skills, which also may hinder your toddler from making friends. Boredom is also a leading catalyst of the habit. Remember to keep your kids engaged with mind stimulating activities.

Have you experienced this with your toddler or are currently going through it? Share stories of how you first found out and tips on how you best handled it.

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Baby stuff comes in such cute prints these days. Gone are the days when everything was pink and blue and covered in ducks or teddy bears. Today's baby gear features stylish prints that appeal to mom.

That's why it's totally understandable how a mama could mistake a car seat cover for a cute midi skirt. It happened to Lori Farrell, and when she shared her mishap on Facebook she went viral before she was even home from work. Fellow moms can totally see the humor in Farrell's mishap, and thankfully, so can she.

As for how a car seat cover could be mistaken for a skirt—it's pretty simple, Farrell tells Motherly.

"A friend of mine had given me a huge lot of baby stuff, from clothes to baby carriers to a rocker and blankets and when I pulled it out I was not sure what it was," she explains. "I debated it but washed it anyway then decided because of the way it pulled on the side it must be a maternity skirt."

Farrell still wasn't 100% sure if she was right by the time she headed out the door to work, but she rocked the ambiguous attire anyway.

"When I got to work I googled the brand and realized not only do they not sell clothing but it was a car seat cover."

The brand, Itzy Ritzy, finds the whole thing pretty funny too, sharing Farell's viral moment to its official Instagram.

It may be a car seat cover, but that print looks really good on this mama.

And if you want to copy Farell's style, the Itzy Ritzy 4-in-1 Nursing Cover, Car Seat Cover, Shopping Cart Cover and Infinity Scarf (and skirt!) is available on Amazon for $24.94.

Motherly is your daily #momlife manual; we are here to help you easily find the best, most beautiful products for your life that actually work. We share what we love—and we may receive a commission if you choose to buy.You've got this.

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Daycare for infants is expensive across the country, and California has one of the worst states for parents seeking care for a baby. Putting an infant in daycare in California costs $2,914 more than in-state tuition for four years of college, according to the Economic Policy Institute.

Paying north of $1,000 for daycare each month is an incredible burden, especially on single-parent families. The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services defines affordable childcare as costing no more than 10% of a family's income—by that definition, less than 29% of families in California can afford infant care. Some single parents spend half their income on day care. It is an incredible burden on working parents.

But that burden may soon get lighter. CBS Sacramento reports California may put between $25 and $35 million into child care programs to make day care more affordable for parents with kids under 3 years old.

Assembly Bill 452, introduced this week, could see $10 million dollars funneled into Early Head Start (which currently gets no money from the state but does get federal funding) and tens of millions more would be spent on childcare for kids under three.

The bill seeks to rectify a broken childcare system. Right now, only about 14% of eligible infants and toddlers are enrolled in subsidized programs in California, and in 2017, only 7% of eligible children younger than three years of age accessed Early Head Start.

An influx of between $25 to $35 million dollars could see more spaces open up for kids under three, as Bill 452, if passed, would see the creation of "grants to develop childcare facilities that serve children from birth to three years of age."

This piece of proposed legislation comes weeks after California's governor announced an ambitious plan for paid parental leave, and as another bill, AB 123, seeks to strengthen the state's pre-kindergarten program.

Right now, it is difficult for some working parents to make a life in California, but by investing in families, the state's lawmakers could change that and change California's future for the better.

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When a mama gets married, in most cases she wants her children to be part of her big day. Photographers are used to hearing bride-to-be moms request lots of pictures of their big day, but when wedding photographer Laura Schaefer of Fire and Gold Photography heard her client Dalton Mort planned to wear her 2-year-old daughter Ellora instead of a veil, she was thrilled.

A fellow mama who understands the benefits of baby-wearing, Schaefer was keen to capture the photos Mort requested. "When I asked Dalton about what some of her 'must get' shots would be for her wedding, she specifically asked for ones of her wearing Ellie, kneeling and praying in the church before the tabernacle," Schaefer tells Motherly.

She got those shots and so many more, and now Mort's toddler-wearing wedding day pics are going viral.

"Dalton wore Ellie down the aisle and nursed her to sleep during the readings," Schaefer wrote on her blog, explaining that Ellie then slept through the whole wedding mass.

"As a fellow mother of an active toddler, this is a HUGE win! Dalton told me after that she was SO grateful that Ellie slept the whole time because she was able to focus and really pray through the Mass," Schaefer explains.

Dalton was able to concentrate on her wedding day because she made her baby girl a part of it (and that obviously tired Ellie right out).

Ellie was part of the commitment and family Dalton if forging with her husband, Jimmy Joe. "There is no better behaved toddler than a sleeping toddler, and she was still involved, even though I ended up unwrapping her to nurse her. I held her in my arms while my husband and I said our vows. It was really special for us," Dalton told POPSUGAR.

This is a wedding trend we are totally here for!

Congrats to Dalton and Jimmy Joe (and to Ellie)! 🎉

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The internet is freaking out about how Peppa Pig is changing the way toddlers speak, but parents don't need to be too worried.

As Romper first reported, plenty of American parents have noticed that preschoolers are picking up a bit of a British accent thanks to Peppa. Romper's Janet Manley calls it "the Peppa effect," noting that her daughter started calling her "Mummy" after an in-flight Peppa marathon.

Plenty of other parents report sharing Manley's experience, but the British accent is not likely to stick, experts say.

Toronto-based speech and language pathologist Melissa James says this isn't a new thing—kids have always been testing out the accents they hear on TV and in the real world, long before Peppa oinked her way into our Netflix queues.

"Kids have this amazing ability to pick up language," James told Global News. "Their brains are ripe for the learning of language and it's a special window of opportunity that adults don't possess."

Global News reports that back in the day there were concerns about Dora The Explorer potentially teaching kids Spanish words before the kids had learned the English counterparts, and over in the U.K., parents have noticed British babies picking up American accents from TV, too.

But it's not a bad thing, James explains. When an American adult hears "Mummy" their brain translates it to "Mommy," but little kids don't yet make as concrete a connection. "When a child, two, three or four, is watching a show with a British accent and hears [words] for the first time, they are mapping out the speech and sound for that word in the British way."

So if your baby is oinking at you, calling you "Mummy" or testing out a new pronunciation of "toh-mah-toe," know that this is totally natural, and they're not going to end up with a life-long British pig accent.

As Dr, Susannah Levi, associate professor of communicative sciences and disorders at New York University, tells The Guardian, "it's really unlikely that they'd be acquiring an entire second dialect from just watching a TV show."

It sure is cute though.

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