Body Autonomy: It Starts with Diaper Changes


I sat and talked with the babysitter, a good friend of mine, about how Moira’s time with her had been. My friend gave me the usual rundown of activities and various reactions Moira had to them and the interactions between my kids and hers.

Then she said something that I won’t ever forget. “She did not give me permission to change her diaper, so she hasn’t been changed since you left.” Several thoughts ran through my head. I did the math, quickly realizing the time that had elapsed was a perfectly acceptable amount of time for a toddler to go without a diaper change.

Then I realized the value of this friend before me. She had respected my daughter’s body autonomy fervently.

It was one of those moments as a mother when my intuition spoke loudly. My child has a right to decline a diaper change if she feels uncomfortable in her surroundings.

Don’t get me wrong, I fully appreciate the unwavering necessity to keep children clean especially those who use diapers. However, children also need to be able to voice their needs about their body and body safety with anyone caring for them. Both are equally important.

You and I would be deeply wounded and traumatized if someone forced us to remove our clothing against our will, regardless of the intentions behind the act. We need to send the message to our kiddos that they alone own their body, and we need to have the patience to allow them to feel safe and comfortable before we remove their clothing, clean their genitals, or give them a hug.

I need my daughter to grow up knowing that she can say “no” to anyone at anytime and that her voice will be heard and her needs respected. I need her to enter her adult life expecting more from her world and holding offenders accountable.

My body is mine. My daughter’s body is hers. I call the shots for my body; she calls the shots for hers. Now and always.