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I'm All For Talking To Your Baby -- But A Mum I Met Recently Took Things Too Far

Speaking to your baby has long been proven as beneficial for their development for a variety of reasons.

From language and communication development to brain development -- even their future achievement at school is thought to be improved by the simple act of talking to your child. The more you do it the better, according to research.

Personally, I followed this recommendation myself when my two children were both babies and toddlers. I would talk about where we were going, what the weather was like, what was on the television or what we were about to go and do.

Really, I'd talk to them about anything that filled the silence to a.) benefit them and b.) to help me stay sane and not just talk to myself.

But recently I was introduced to a friend of a friend, who while a lovely person in general, took this idea of communicating with your baby to a whole new level and left me literally shaking my head.

Shona Hendley. Image: Supplied

While out at a cafe, Emma* proceeded to feed her six-month-old baby. Taking out three packets of baby food, she held each one up to the infant sitting in her Bugaboo pram.

“Which one would Amelia* like today?” she asked.

Amelia looked at her mother briefly and then off into the distance to try and work out the source of the loud clang she had heard somewhere else.

“Mum has beef, sweet potato and parsnip, chicken, peas and pasta or chicken vegetables and rice. Which one do you feel like?” she continued to quiz.

Amelia, still not looking and of course, not replying, failed to give her preferred menu option so her mother responded with: “I think you told me chicken, vegetables and rice earlier, today didn’t you? Is that okay Amelia?”

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As I sat drinking my coffee, now only half listening to our mutual friend who was speaking to us because I, like Amelia, was also distracted but rather than distracted from her mum, I was distracted by her.

More importantly, I was preoccupied by why she was asking her six-month-old which meal she would prefer to eat that day like she was actually going to be given some sort of answer.

Eventually my wonderment was overcome by the cake that arrived at our table but even that could only absorb me momentarily. That's because when Emma happened to take Amelia to the baby changeroom at the same time as I was heading to the bathroom, the issue of baby consent was spoken of again, literally.

As Emma lay Amelia on the change table she asked her: “Amelia, is it okay for mum to change your nappy now? I will need to take the old one off, wipe you and put a fresh nappy on. Is this okay with you?”

Shona with her two daughters. Image: Supplied

Internally my mind was thinking (actually it was shouting) -- Emma -- I am pretty sure Amelia wants you to take her pooey nappy off and clean her bottom.

I am sure that is why she started crying only moments earlier just at the same time as the pungent smell rose from her bottom. In fact, Emma, I would say it is a given.

But of course, I didn’t. Instead I smiled and went back out to our table.

Before Emma returned I asked our friend inquisitively: “Does Emma ask Amelia for her permission to do things?”

Without a word in response, I knew that our friend had witnessed this too and knew exactly what I was referring to.

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She began to explain to me that Emma thinks asking Amelia for her permission to do things is imperative. That consent is necessary in our society and that we need to establish this behaviour and set an example for it as young as possible.

This is why Emma had been asking Amelia for her permission to change her nappy, bath her, even feed her from the moment she was born. Yes, born.

When we left the cafe that day, I took with me a caffeine rush, a sugar high and also a plenitude of questions. While I respect that every parent does things a little bit differently, I truly wonder how effective this method of teaching a baby consent really is?

I mean, a newborn can’t lift their own head but somehow they are providing permission for you to breastfeed them? They can’t speak but they are answering your questions about which flavour food they like best? They rely on you to live but you need to ask them first?

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What I found most confusing was that without obviously receiving an answer to any of these questions, Emma would go ahead and do what she needs to do anyway because what other option does she have? Amelia won't be giving an answer.

Personally, when it comes to the ideas of babies giving consent, I don't think that it's completely necessary. When a child is of an age when they can understand what you are saying to them, I completely agree its an important area to teach your children about as a parent. But for babies? Not so much.

When it comes to babies, talking to them is of course important. They learn different sounds and words through your own speech and it improves their understanding of language. It also increases the number and variety of words that they understand and use.

Yet when it comes to babies and consent, my perspective is no, just... no.

* Names have been changed to maintain privacy.

Featured image: Supplied