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Where do babies come from

Talking to your child about where babies come from is an important part of their sexuality education.

Introduction

Many children are curious about where they or their siblings came from or how something as big as a baby can get into someone’s tummy! By talking to your child about conception and birth you are ensuring that they are getting correct information that is right for them.

How much information do I give my child?

It is important to give your child information that is at a level that they can understand, fits with their current knowledge and satisfies their curiosity.

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If your child:

  • is aged 4-5 years or
  • knows the names of the private body parts and can point to where they are

Children in the ‘beginner’ category are more interested in where babies come from than finding out how they are made. You can keep your explanation short and simple, and add more detail if your child seems curious or confused by your answers. You may say something like:

  • babies grow in a special place inside a woman’s tummy called the uterus
  • the uterus protects the baby as it grows
  • babies start out very small and grow for 9 months until they are ready to be born

If your child:

  • is aged 5-8 years or
  • knows the names of private body parts, where they are and what they do
  • has a basic understanding of male and female reproductive parts

Children in the ‘intermediate learner’ category may become curious about how babies are made. You can still keep your explanations fairly simple but start to add more detail about the process of how a baby is made. You don’t need to discuss sexual intercourse at this stage, but you can add it in if you feel it is appropriate for your child’s learning. Information you might give your child can include:

  • you need a special part from a man and a woman to make a baby. The part from the man is called sperm and the part from the woman is called the egg (or ovum if you prefer to use this term)
  • the egg and the sperm join together in the uterus. When this happens a baby is made
  • the baby grows in the uterus for 9 months until it is ready to be born.
  • when the baby is ready to be born it leaves the uterus and comes out of the mum’s vagina.

If your child:

  • is aged 8+ years or
  • knows the names of private body parts, where they are and what they do
  • has a good understanding of male and female reproductive organs
  • has an understanding of different types of relationships including intimate relationships

Children in the ‘advanced or very curious’ category may start to question how the sperm gets inside the woman’s uterus. Information you might give your child can include:

  • a man and woman need to have sex to make a baby
  • this means that the man puts his penis into the woman’s vagina. Both people have to say yes for this to happen
  • the sperm leaves the penis and goes into the vagina. It swims up the vagina into the uterus
  • if the sperm finds an egg in the uterus it can join it. There isn’t always an egg in the uterus. This only happens sometimes. When the sperm and egg join a baby starts to grow

Usually when talking about how babies are made, we talk about penis-in-vagina sexual intercourse. However, not all babies are made this way. This may be the case in your family, or other families that your child knows. If so, it can be a good idea to talk to your child about the different ways that babies can enter families such as IVF, surrogacy, adoption, foster care, kinship care or grandparent care. Explain to your child that all families are different. Some children’s parents may have needed help to have a baby and that is OK. They are still a family just like other families.

Conversation Starters

Have you ever thought about how you were born?
Do you see that lady over there? She is growing a baby in her tummy. Do you know how the baby got there?
That woman on the TV is about to have her baby. Do you know how babies come out?

Strategies for you to try

Teachable moments

Look for teachable moments in your child’s everyday life to start the conversation about how babies are made. These moments might include:

  • Seeing a pregnant woman on the bus, at school or at the supermarket
  • A school friend has a new baby brother or sister
  • People on TV are talking about having a baby

Use these moments to ask your child questions about what they know about pregnancy and birth, while allowing them to ask you questions in return. Take advantage of these opportunities to have frequent and repeat talks about pregnancy and birth, and to check in on your child’s understanding of what that means.

Use resources and activities to help your child learn

Finding the right way to give information to your child is just as important as finding the right words to explain something. If your child loves pictures then sit down together with a book and ask them questions about what they think is happening in the pictures. If they prefer to learn by doing things, or use non-verbal communication, then worksheets and sorting games can be helpful. For example, you might cut out the images of the different steps involved in making a baby and ask your child to sort them into the order they think they happen.

Don’t wait! Be proactive!

Don’t wait for your child to ask you about where babies come from. Be proactive in bringing up the topic with your child. This lets your child know that you want them to talk to you about these things and that they can come to you if they have questions. If your child needs a little bit more time to learn new things bringing up the topic with them early gives them more time to hear repeat information, understand it and ask questions.

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