Talking to toddlers about babies, periods, and menstrual cups.

Sometime not long ago, I fielded the following question from my three year old: what’s a menstrual cup, mommy?

If you don’t know what a menstrual cup is, I said, here’s a link. No, you can’t say that to a three year old, because then you have to deal with other questions like: what’s a link, mommy; what’s the internet, mommy; what’s Google, mommy; can I have a snack, mommy; what’s a cursor, mommy; what’s a search field, mommy; what is click on something, mommy; is all this screen time good for me, mommy.

I decided to buy a menstrual cup after I read about it via a link that popped up on my Facebook newsfeed. Aside: how did Facebook know before I did that I wanted an alternative to my current repertoire of feminine hygiene products? Really, how did they know something about me that I didn’t? Thanks, Mark? I order one and it arrives and my kid is curious. It’s bright blue, looks like a tiny bell-shaped cup, it’s squishy with a little skinny nipple on the end of it, and it’s got its own storage satchel that has flowers on it. So cute, mommy. My toddler imagines situations where such a thing could be very useful to him.


It’s not a toy. It’s a menstrual cup.


What’s a menstrual cup, mommy?

Answering this particular question required fielding several other prerequisite toddler questions such as: why is the baby in your belly, mommy; how is the baby going to get out, mommy; what’s a gina, mommy; did I come out of your gina, mommy; can I see your gina, mommy; why I can’t see it, mommy; what is private, mommy; why is your gina private, mommy.

Several months ago I explained what a period was because I wanted him to stop experimenting with my tampons and pads. Why can’t I play with your pads, mommy?

I thought for a minute and said:

Mommy’s body makes a bed every month in mommy’s belly. It’s for a baby in case mommy decides to have a baby. This little tiny bed is made with blood. Yes, with blood. It’s wet and squishy, but very cosy for a teeny tiny little baby. Now, if mommy decides not to have a baby that month, then mommy’s body breaks up the bed into little pieces because it get old, lumpy, and not very comfy. Then mommy’s body sends the pieces down mommy’s vagina like throwing it into the garbage bin. And then mommy uses tampons and pads to catch the wet, squishy bed pieces so that it doesn’t get all over mommy’s underwear and pants. The tampons and pads are like mommy diapers. [Pause to give him time to absorb information.] Does that make sense? So you need to stop playing with mommy’s tampons and pads because I use it on my private parts and they do an important job.

He stopped playing with my tampons and pads.

So time passes and the menstrual cup arrives. We open it together, unavoidably, because I’m too curious and he’s awake at 3 PM.

But how do you use it, mommy?

I say:

This is for mommy’s periods. Remember we talked about what a period is? Well, this little cup catches the bloody baby bed bits from mommy’s belly. I put it in my vagina. VA-gina, Henry. Va, jie, na. Good. Oh, I just pull it out of mommy’s VAgina when it’s full and rinse it off. I use this instead of tampons and pads. [Pause to give him time to absorb information.] Does that make sense? No, you can’t have the little bag. Because that’s for storing the cup when I’m not using it.

A few days later he goes to Costco with his dad and brother where they run into family friends. Our three year old, apropos of nothing, says:

My mommy got a little cup she puts up her gina so she can catch her bloody bed.

* * *

REVIEW OF MENSTRUAL CUP FOR INTERESTED FEMALE READERS: After two months of using the menstrual cup, I can say I had some fit or placement issues, resulting in leaks, but it seriously reduced waste in my bathroom garbage bin. It’s especially useful during the light flow stages when I can wear it for 24 hours, and no leaks. The major drawback is I don’t know how you can use this if you have don’t have access to a private bathroom that has a sink next to the toilet. One woman on Youtube suggested bringing bottled water to rinse it off over the toilet. But how would I manage this with a one and three year old standing in front of me in a public bathroom stall or port-a-potty, a one and three year old who will surely clamber over each other to see what’s going on in mommy’s toilet bowl? Like so many things in modern life (escalators, airplane bathrooms, stool seating in restaurants, chocolate bars and Tic Tacs displayed in front of the cashier at CVS) the menstrual cup is not entirely mommy friendly. If you have suggestions on this matter or comments, I would love to hear from you.

2 thoughts on “Talking to toddlers about babies, periods, and menstrual cups.

  1. Hahaha! I was packing for a trip, and my 2 year old pulled my cup out of my hygiene bag when my back was turned. She had it out of the sack and was pretending it was a trumpet! *cringe*

    For public bathrooms, I don’t bother with a rinse. Just dump it and put it back in. With practice, I can now do it one-handed in just slightly more time than it takes to wipe.

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