The Dad’s Guide to Cleaning a Baby Girl’s Vagina

Some men can get a little squeamish about taking diaper and bath duty with a baby girl. It’s important to relax and wipe front to back.

For most dads, caring for a vulva is an alien task. In fact, some dads may be so out of touch that they misidentify the outer region of the female genitalia as the vagina. It’s not and that’s actually not a pedantic point. It’s an important anatomical distinction for two reasons. First off, parents should want their daughter to accurately know what the parts of their genitalia are called. And secondly, parents can’t, and shouldn’t, clean their baby girl’s vagina because it’s inside of them and likely completely fine the way it is. They should, however, be carefully conscientious cleaning their baby girl’s just-as-sensitive (and more likely to get dirty) vulva.

Upon reading the word “vulva” some dads may feel their shoulders creeping up around their ears. But Dr. Tanya Altmann of Calabasas Pediatricians, author of the American Academy of Pediatrics book Caring For Your Baby and Young Child: Birth to Age 5 has some important advice. “Just relax when you’re changing your newborn baby’s diaper or bathing her,” she urges. “There’s not a huge difference initially in how we care for a new baby’s private area, the same sort of principles apply.”

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Those universal principles include using mild baby wash during bath time, using light washing pressure on the baby’s soft and sensitive new skin and paying close attention to the fatty folds where gunk can get trapped around the thighs. That said there are some unique hygiene protocols with baby girls. The most important tip is to wipe away from the vulva.

“The female anatomy is created to keep infections out but there are a lot of germs that can come with the stool,” explains Altmann. “So whenever you’re cleaning your daughter, wipe front to back and in to out to keep away any sort of potential irritation or infection”

How to Wash A Baby Girl’s Genitals

  • Use a mild soap or plain warm water while bathing.
  • Wash from front to back and from in to out.
  • Surface cleaning is fine. Pay attention to fat folds around thighs.
  • Expect some discharge and even blood in the first two weeks.
  • Care for irritation from potty training by using an Epsom salt bath soak, twice a day for a few days.

It’s also important to understand what’s normal and what isn’t while diapering a baby girl, particularly during the first few weeks. During that time a baby girl’s body is withdrawing from the wash of her mother’s hormones.

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“Some girls may get a little bit of withdrawal bleeding that might look like a little period,” Altman says. She notes that discharge is completely normal and may arrive in concert with leakage of a cloudy fluid. “That’s actually a good thing. It lets us know the area is open and everything that needs to flow out can. Rinsing it with warm water or gently with a baby wipe is fine. There’s no need to get in there and pick around.”

As a girl gets older and transfers into a bathtub for bath time, Altman warns parents to be particularly conscious of how sensitive the vulva and genital area can be. She recommends holding off on using bubble bath or allowing little girls to sit for long periods of time in soapy water. Instead, let them play in warm, plain water, wash lightly with a mild soap, and rinse with clear water. Again, there’s no need for any deep and vigorous cleaning.

Finally, Altmann notes that as girls begin to potty train and learn to wipe themselves, parents may notice redness and irritation in the genital area.

“Epsom salt bath soaks can clear up almost any irritation or discomfort in that area,” she explains. “So if your daughter is wiggling around or complaining of itchiness, just soak her in a bath for 15 to 20 minutes with warm water and a half cup or cup of Epsom salts.”  When performed twice daily, the irritation should resolve in a few days. However, if it isn’t resolved, it’s time to call the pediatrician.

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