Erections are a natural function for a healthy male, but when they start occurring in babies and little boys it can be a little disconcerting – especially for mums! Not sure if it’s normal? Here’s everything you’ve wanted to know about erections in children (but were too embarrassed to ask!).
A baby boy can start having erections from a very early age, while they’re still in the womb to be precise! So don’t be shocked if you see your newborn with one when you’re changing his nappy or having a bath. Then as little boys grow and become more mobile, they’ll naturally explore their body – including touching their penis and maybe even trying to make it erect.
Therefore, it’s quite common for both babies and toddlers to have frequent erections. However, unlike adult erections, they won’t lead to ejaculation. This doesn’t happen until puberty, which on average is around the age of 11 or older. Phew!
Why they happen
There are many different causes of erections in children, and they’re not all sexual. In newborns, often there is no apparent reason – it could just be the air hitting their genitals when you change them, or perhaps their bladder is full, and they need to urinate.
While it may be a bit shocking to see at first, there’s no need to worry. It’s completely normal and is a good sign that everything is functioning correctly down there.
In older babies and toddlers, however, the erection might be a result of them touching, rubbing or playing with their penis as they’ve worked out it feels pleasurable. Again, this is entirely normal and shouldn’t be discouraged. But there are some ways to help manage this so that it’s not uncomfortable or embarrassing for you, them or anyone else.
Managing penis play
It’s very important that your child doesn’t feel ashamed or like they’re doing something wrong by having an erection or touching themselves. However, no one wants to see this at the dinner table or the park either.
Stay calm at all times and gently explain to your child that there’s a time and place for penis play – in private only.
Although he may want to do it at other times, he must wait until he’s by himself. Some young boys also rub their penis on things like the bed before sleep or toys as a way of comforting themselves which can be a difficult habit to break.
Not fun for all
Not all little boys find erections pleasurable. Some kids are frightened by the change in their penis or find it uncomfortable or painful, especially if the erection is quite strong and lasts for a while. Don’t be surprised if your little boy tells you it hurts or cries out in pain. If you can see he has an erection, simply explain to him that it’s a normal thing that sometimes happens to boys. Help him to feel more comfortable – either by putting loose pants on or giving him a bath.
When to worry
Most erections are normal and harmless in children and go down by themselves fairly quickly with no issues. However, there are a few instances when it might be something more serious. If your son’s erection lasts for more than an hour, there’s redness or a rash, he has a fever, or it looks very swollen, then it’s best to take him to the doctor for an assessment.
If the erections are particularly painful and prolonged, it could be a condition called priapism which usually only occurs in adult men or boys aged five to ten years who have a disease such as leukaemia or trauma to their penis or pelvis (often from child abuse). If left untreated, it can result in permanent erectile or penile dysfunction. If your son’s erections are regularly painful and last a long time, then see a doctor immediately.