A baby being changed on a changing tableGetty Images

Should we ask babies for consent before changing their nappies?

Maybe it's not as bonkers as it first sounds

Ashitha Nagesh
Share this:

There's never been much debate around nappy changing. It can be a bit gross sometimes (ok, most of the time), but it's not usually that political. It's a non-negotiable part of being a new parent.

But that all changed this week, when a sexuality educator suggested that people ask their babies for consent before changing their nappies.

Speaking to Australia’s ABC News on 8 May, Deanne Carson said she works with parents from birth teaching them "to set up a culture of consent in the home" and to talk to their newborn baby saying things like "I’m going to change your nappy now, is that OK?"

“Of course a baby’s not going to respond and say, ‘Yes, mum, that’s awesome, I’d love to have my nappy changed!’ but if you leave a space, and wait for body language, and wait to make eye contact, then you’re letting that child know that their response matters,” says Deanne.

Since giving that interview, Deanne has found her views ridiculed online.

People labelled nappy changing a politically incorrect act:

Some said asking an infant was almost satire:

Others said it was asking a bit much of babies who hadn't yet learned to speak:

But Deanne tells BBC Three that her words have been misunderstood.

She says parents should communicate with babies while changing their nappies, so that – even though they can’t respond with words - they learn from an early age that they are in control of their bodies.

Deanne Carson appeared on ABC AustraliaABC

“We read to small children with no expectation that they will pick up a book and read it back to us or even really understand what the book is about,” Deanne explains. “What we are doing there is building the foundations of literacy and normalising reading. So when we practise consent with babies, we are doing exactly the same.”

Deanne, who works with the child protection organisation Body Safety Australia, explains that parents already talk to their babies about what they like and don’t like.

“We often speak to them, wait a beat or two, and then respond for them – most people do it, and it’s how babies learn language and empathy,” she says. “For example, we’ll say, ‘Would you like some banana? I have a lovely banana just for you! You would, you would like a banana?’"

Deanne says that parents already talk to their babies while feeding themGetty Images

Deanne adds that approaching babies in this way means that they're more likely to have healthy relationships with people when they grow up.

“If children grow up in a home where their bodies and voices are respected, then that’s the core value they will bring into their future relationships."

Well, if it's true that asking the odd question while changing a baby's nappy can help them grow into a well-rounded kid that understands consent, then we're all here for it.

Although faced head-on with a dirty nappy, we admit we'd probably just try and clean it as quickly as possible...