How to clean a child’s vulva and vagina

Cleaning a child’s vulva is pretty straightforward:

When not in a bath or shower

With a damp (just with plain water, as wet as it needs to be to get the job done) cloth, firmly but gently wipe the entire outside of visible soiling, and then in between the outer labia and inner labia as required. Make sure all the poop is off. Dry off with air or a dry cloth or towel, but don’t rub hard. It doesn’t have to be like the desert; just dry enough.

In a bath or shower

If it’s bath time, be very careful not to get soap inside the vagina – it really stings like crazy. Bubble baths can do this, so be really choosy what you put in the bath with your kid. The protective layer can easily get chewed off by harsh soaps and body washes and bubble baths. Kids are famous for their bubble baths, but remember that the more foamy something is, the more sodium laurel/laureth sulphate it contains – an irritant.

Teach your child as they grow to clean their own vulva by running a washcloth up each side of the labia, between the inner and outer labia. Show them exactly where this is, and explain what each part is called and why it’s important to clean in there, but also why it’s important not to use soap in there. Rinsing off is very important as you don’t want soap on the skin all day.

The vagina cleans itself, so unless there is something up there (like poo), just don’t bother, and never, ever use soap inside the vagina. It is like you don’t need to clean your lungs or your eyes – the flesh is pure mucous membrane, and it organises its own business very well on its own.

Tips when cleaning a child’s genitals:

  • Don’t leave a child in wet underwear for long periods of time, as urine or faeces will irritate the skin due to its acidic nature.
  • Kids love to put dirty fingers everywhere, so try to teach your child to keep poo and other germs away from her vagina – infections are not fun.
  • Use the correct names for her body parts: vagina and labia and vulva are good places to start. “Down there” is vague.
  • Don’t use drying soaps. The body naturally has a layer of protective oils on it, including the vulva.
  • Avoid use of baby wipes – there is mounting evidence that they cause more damage than they are worth. Plain warm water is pretty good at most things.
  • If your kid has rashes or eczema, be gentle.
  • Talk to your child, where appropriate, about their body and name all the parts. Get used to saying vulva, labia, vagina. Just do it.

As your daughter grows, she’ll want to do everything herself, so there is not a great chance that you’ll be washing her vulva for very long. Keep your eye out, however, and do spot checks every now and again to make sure there is no build-up of gunk between the folds.

If you have any questions about your daughter’s vagina, ask Aunt Vadge – she knows everything.

 

 

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