CARING FOR THE "LITTLE BITS" - PARENTS OF GIRLS, WHAT YOU NEED TO KNOW

Full disclaimer; this article is about caring for your little one's vagina*. So if you clicked on here thinking it was something else or you are somewhere you are not supposed to be, click away now. We'll pretend this never happened.

So this is quite an awkward subject for most but still important to know.

While most women refer to the area as the vagina, the anatomically correct term for the external female genitalia is the vulva.

You will need to take care of the cleaning when your little one can not yet bathe herself and Yes, poop does go there. You will need to clean the poop off at least once a week if not daily, because poop goes everywhere.

Firstly you need to know that the vagina will look swollen right after birth due to having extra fluid in her body that collects in the genitals and also due to mommy's hormones in her system.

There may also be some bloody discharge similar to a mini period right after birth, as mom's hormones work its way out of baby's body.

It is important never to pull the vagina far apart and you never need to do a vigorous clean. If you need to, just slightly part to check it is clean after some poop made its way up there.

Fold a wetwipe in half and just gently run it through the crevice during a runny poo situation to clean "up in there". If you are a daddy sharing diaper duty with mommy and you are too uncomfortable to go there, just call mommy in for that part.

The vagina is self-cleaning and anything you didn't get out will come out on its own. It is also normal for there to be a white discharge, it's just the natural flora. You can wipe the excess away if there's a lot of build up.

The vagina or discharge should not have a strong or fishy smell, that could mean an infection. Sometimes it only happens once and you'll notice it with one diaper change and then not again. That could just mean you didn't clean properly and the vagina self-cleaned. If an unpleasant odor however lingers, you may need to contact the pediatrician.

On the rare occasions you do catch a glimpse of "inside", make sure to note if all looks normal, as it is a quite common medical complication in girls under 7 for the entrance of the vagina to become shut or for them to be born with a fused shut entrance. This is called labial fusion and it is due to girls not having sufficient estrogen in their bodies before puberty, so the edges of the labia can become dry and sticky and fuse together, leaving only a small opening for urine to pass. Labial fusion is usually corrected with an estrogen cream.

During bath time, place some soap on a thin washcloth and run it along the groin and just gently along the crevice. Nothing too invasive. Be sure to rinse away the soap. You can use a beaker to pour water on the area and let the water make its way between the folds.

You also don't need to apply too much diaper cream to the area. Some diaper cream to the outer edges only after a dirty nappy will be sufficient.

If some hormonal acne, redness or a bit of an odor forms, applying some breastmilk to the area will also clear it up.

Once your little one starts crawling around and picking things up, don't be surprised to find a crayon or cheerio down there. They like to stuff things in their nappy and it can make their way down there as they crawl.

Around the time they are potty trained and the area is no longer covered by a diaper for the majority of time, they will want to explore and figure out what this new part of their body is. As it has been covered for most of their life, this is totally normal and should not be confused with masturbation. Remember when they first found their feet? This is similar. Imagine finding an arm on your body you never knew about, you would want to inspect it, touch it and even look at it in the mirror.

There will also come a stage when your little one will become aware of what she has and she'll want to show it off. It is important not to react in a harsh or negative way. You don't want her to think she needs to be ashamed of her body. Rather use it as a teaching opportunity and kindly chat to her about the concept of privacy.

Lastly, it is important to call it what it is, a vagina, no cute names. You may find the name crude and don't want your little one saying it out loud in the grocery store but unfortunately calling it cute names or "private place" etc gives predators the opportunity to exploit it and manipulate the situation. This was advised by a pediatrician that specializes in molestation and abuse cases.

Remember that gentle or unscented soaps and wipes are best to keep the natural flora undisturbed. Any imbalance may be improved by breastmilk, normal greek yogurt or a probiotic.

*While most women refer to the area as the vagina, the anatomically correct term for the external female genitalia is the vulva. If you are interested in learning more about the various terms, you can read here:

http://www.webmd.com/women/female-external-genitalia-vulva