“Mom, how did the baby
get in your stomach?” “How did I get born?”
“Am I going to have a baby, too?” Parents are sometimes caught by
surprise as their three- to five-year-old begins asking questions
about sex and childbirth. They wonder how much to tell their child
and when to tell her. Some books and specialists advise parents to
give young children all the facts about sex and reproduction, but
children often are unable to absorb and comprehend such information.
Learning about and understanding reproduction is a gradual process
that continues through the childhood years.
Young children usually have their own ideas about how the human body
works, based on their observations and experience. Before parents
talk to their child about pregnancy, they should ask what she thinks
so they know where to start the discussion: “How do you think the
baby got inside of me?” Many children believe that eating too much
causes pregnancy and that a woman gives birth in the same way she
has a bowel movement. A child who’s heard that a baby starts from a
special seed might think that pregnancy comes from eating seeds.
Parents may discover that their child is afraid of pregnancy, since
children often fear things they don’t understand and things they
imagine. By asking questions, parents find out about such thoughts
and discover how to reassure her.
Before you offer your three- to five-year-old the facts about
pregnancy and birth, wait for her to ask questions. There’s no need
to volunteer information if she’s not yet curious about the subject.
And when she does ask, don’t overwhelm her with information. Start
with simple explanations: “The baby grows in a special place inside
the mother.” Such a statement may satisfy her only for a few minutes
or for six months. Wait for her to ask for more before you continue
your discussion; don’t feel that you have to tell all the facts at
If you do explain too much too soon, she may become confused or
upset. One five-year-old girl, after hearing the details of
childbirth, declared, “I’m never going to have a baby.” A three and
one-half-year-old, who had been enrolled in a sibling childbirth
class where he heard all the facts about birth, still believed that
“Mom’s stomach unzips so the baby can get out.” Both these children
were too young to handle the information. If your child seems
curious about pregnancy and birth, explain the facts in simple terms
that you think she can understand. You will satisfy her curiosity
without overwhelming her. Then, when she’s older, she’ll have an
easier time understanding, cognitively and emotionally, the facts of