Infantile Self-gratification

Sometimes called infantile masturbation – but often doesn’t involve touching the genitals at all, which can lead to confusion – can be mistaken for silent reflux, seizures or painful spasms. 

More commonly girls.  Often starts before the age of 1yr, diagnosis often late (median 11 months delay)!  Can happen in car seats, on floor, high chairs, push chairs, falling to sleep etc. 

Characteristic rocking or crossing of legs, often rhythmic. Grunting, sweating, “zoning out” pretty typical.  Can appear tired afterwards (or tiredness is a trigger) and may fall asleep, which might suggest post ictal period!  Some seem to get upset with it!

Key features are distractability, and in particular, irritation when distracted! [Linda Ross etc, ADC 2004]

Fisting often seen in young infants, in older children grasping of clothes or objects, so not just legs! [Hansen, 2009]

Parent friendly article

Nothing to worry about – but no one likes to talk about it and parents can feel mortified. Very little information on internet about it! Distraction is all that is needed. As they get older it is likely to go away by itself – but otherwise teach that it is a private thing! Avoid shame…