Should Parents Ask Their Babies For Consent Before Changing Their Nappies?

by Cam Fraser // June 16 // 0 Comments

A few years ago, Australian sexuality educator Deanne Carson made headlines when, as part of her mission to promote a culture of consent, she encouraged parents to ask their babies for consent before changing their nappies.

Of course, mainstream news outlets sensationalised her claims and trivialised her whole message. So much so that the outrage it sparked resulted in Carson reportedly receiving death threats online. All of this harassment simply because she invited parents to ask their children, "I'm going to change your nappy now, is that OK?"

News anchors and people in the comments mocked her by saying this is lunacy, neglect, and child abuse because many children don't want to have their nappy changed and a baby can't give consent.

These reactions from commenters seem pretty extreme when you realise that early childhood educators are already doing this. In fact, The Australian Children’s Education & Care Quality Authority has a toileting and nappy changing principles and practices information sheet which reads:

I want to highlight the sentence, "build children's understanding of what is happening now" as well as "responding to children's cues and allowing them to be active participants in the process." Although they don't use the word, it certainly sounds like these guidelines are suggesting that consent should be a part of the nappy changing routine.

On our journey of Aware Parenting, my wife and I have been doing our best to respect my son's bodily autonomy and agency while also making sure that he is hygienic and safe. I appreciate what Carson says about teaching your baby that their response matters. While I don't expect my son to turn around and say, "Sure dad, I'd love to have my nappy changed. Thanks for asking," I do think it is important to talk to him about what it is that I am doing, both before and while I'm doing it.

So, when it is time to change my son's nappy, I'll first ask him, "Have you gone to the toilet? Have you done a poo?" This is about communication and toilet training. Then, I'll do my best to make eye contact with him and say, "Ok, I'm going to change your nappy now." While I change his nappy, I tell him what I am doing. "I'm going to take your nappy off now. I'm going to wipe your bottom now. Let's put a new nappy on now."

There are plenty of times when he is unhappy about having his nappy changed, but my wife or I (sometimes my wife and I, because it can be a two person experience) still change it. But we try to do so with respect. We talk to our son and treat him like a human being, not like a doll or some other inanimate object. We're trying to teach him that his response matters and that we're listening to him.

Cam Fraser is a Certified Professional Sex Coach and Certified Sexologist. Being a former Tantric Yoga Teacher, his work integrates scientifically validated, medically accurate information about sexual health, with sacred sexuality teachings from the mystery traditions. As a coach, he helps men go beyond surface-level sex and into full-bodied, self-expressed, pleasure-oriented sexual experiences free of anxiety or shame.

Learn more about masculinity and sexuality. Start Now!