Babies and Consent

There was a lot of hype over a lady who said parents should seek a baby’s consent before changing her diaper.

The idea was worded very inelegantly and in a way that seemed meant to antagonize as many people as possible. But it’s actually a great idea. It’s deranged to use the word “consent” in this context but it definitely helps, even with a tiny, newborn infant, to explain what you are about to do in a calm, soothing voice and in great detail.

“Now it’s time to get changed. I’m going to take you upstairs, and put you on the changing table, and take of the stinky, dirty diaper, and put on a fresh, clean diaper, and it’s going to feel so good, and fresh, and clean.”

Obviously, a baby doesn’t understand speech. But she recognizes mommy’s and daddy’s voices from long before she was born. They have a soothing, comforting effect. The baby feels that nothing bad is happening, mommy is right there, mommy is feeling calm and is signaling that there’s no danger. N and I tried both methods, grabbing the baby and hauling her away to get changed in silence and doing it while explaining what’s going on. The talking strategy wins hands down. It makes life easier, and show me a parent who is against having a bit of an easier time of it.

Of course, initially it doesn’t matter what you talk about during diaper changes (or any other activity with the baby.) You could retell the weather forecast with the exact same effect. But the sooner the baby begins to make a connection between the sound and the object it names, the easier the parents’ life will be.

Do you know how much easier it is for me to handle everything now that Klara can say things like, “I’m sad because I miss my friend Madison because she’s not in the Duckies room [Klara’s group at school] any more.” Instead of trying to interact with an incomprehensibly pouting, miserable child, I have a situation that I can very easily remedy.

There is nothing like talking in terms of making child care easier at any age (until the teenage years when the best method is to know when to shut up.) A really great, useful idea was buried because it was expressed in an unproductive way. But I also fail to comprehend the adults who were pouting all over the internet over this idea before trying to see if there was a seed of something useful in it. I’m getting brilliant parenting suggestions everywhere because I’m open to listening. Talking to an infant, for instance, was taught to me by my sister, and I’m forever grateful.

2 thoughts on “Babies and Consent”

  1. The problem with ‘consent’ is that it implies that sometimes babies would prefer to stay in their filthy diapers and parents should respect that…

    Do you remember the crazy anti-diaper people a few years ago? They recommended paying attention to the baby’s body language to figure out when a load was forthcoming and then finding something to hold them over (I’m completely serious, this was a thing).


    1. The word consent has been so overused that people shudder when they hear it in any context. And I don’t blame them.

      One could theoretically guess poop times based on body language but life should be worth living and that’s not it, in my opinion. Also, Freud would have a field day with the whole poop-watching strategy.


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