Daycare Center Receives Backlash For Telling Parents To Ask For Baby & Toddler Consent Before Changing Diapers

Photo: Kuznetsov Dmitriy / Shutterstock
woman changing baby's diapers

Raising a child is no easy feat. Diaper changes and late-night feeds are just the beginning — providing emotional security is a whole different ball game.

When it comes to making your child feel comfortable and secure on a daily basis is asking their consent before diaper changes a good place to start?

According to the Australian childcare chain Only About Children, yes. The company has generated a debate online after advising parents to conduct “respectful nappy changes” involving consent and permission.

Should you ask your baby or toddler's permission before changing their diaper?

According to Only About Children, toddlers need more communication during diaper changes in order to make it a collaborative process.

They advise parents to allow children to be somewhat independent during diaper changes, let them stand or remove the diaper themselves.

“You may wish to give your toddler some autonomy and ask ‘Would you like to walk to the change table or should I carry you?’” they say.

The advice is similar to that offered by sexuality expert Deanne Carson back in 2018 as she suggested using diaper changes as an opportunity to cultivate a culture of consent.

“If you leave a space and wait for body language and wait to make eye contact then you are letting that child know that their response matters,” she said.

The advice hasn’t gone down all that well with netizens, however, as many ridiculed the suggestion.

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To settle the debate, we asked family and parenting coach Amy Armstrong if asking permission to change diapers is an appropriate way to teach consent.

“While respect is always essential, consent is not developmentally appropriate for changing the diaper of an infant or toddler,” she tells us.

“Children who are not yet using the toilet on their own (infants to 3 years old) do not have the cognition to understand the reasons to change a diaper other than to provide for the child's physical comfort.”

She also notes that sometimes the need to protect children’s health by changing their diaper may not leave time for consent.

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How can you make children more comfortable during diaper changes?

Though taking diaper changes as an opportunity to teach children about the boundaries of consent may not be entirely appropriate, Armstrong still stresses that respect and security are valuable here.

“One way parents can show respect is by making sure only trusted caregivers have the responsibility of changing the child’s diaper,” she recommends.

“Additionally, respect is demonstrated by being prompt, gentle and efficient in the manner the diaper is changed. Parents or other caregivers changing the diaper should make it a positive interaction with pleasant conversation - not shaming the child for the smell of a soiled diaper, for example.”

Armstrong also adds that older children may way privacy during diaper changes and concludes that clean, sanitary changing spaces are essential for child safety and comfort.

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Alice Kelly is a writer living in Brooklyn, New York. Catch her covering all things social justice, news, and entertainment. Keep up with her Twitter for more.