Has the controversy surrounding baby reins finally died down? 2013 saw a boom in the discussion of appropriate ways of watching your children. Unsurprising, as this was the height of mum-blogs and the time when Facebook morphed from being just a place to write about your day to a political battleground.
Parenting Facebook groups were everywhere, some offering support, others set out with the explicit intention to criticise others and if there was one thing that would constantly be repeated after friends and family members were found yelling at their device screens, it was, “Don’t read the comment section!”
The comment section, a place for advice and for major political discussions had not et been taken over by gifs and constant tagging. This was a time when people still engaged with each other over the social media app. Behind the protection and dehumanisation of their computer screens, parents and non-parents were able to pass judgement disconnected from any risks of personal harm.
Baby reins lit up the world in 2013. Arguments across various social media platforms and internet forums exploded to such an extent that it became top news reported by the BBC and CNN. Was reining your child ok? Child psychologists, famous parents, teachers and activists were all asked for their opinions.
Baby reins are a harness for toddlers, a safety precaution for parents enabling them to keep their child close without holding their hand or strapping them into a pram. They come in many forms, the most popular being a backpack, easy to convince a child to wear and much more appealing and normal to the eye than a plain harness on a child. There are also reins that simply strap around a mother’s hand and a child’s hand connecting them by a lead.
These are not a new invention. Reins became commonplace in Britain in the mid-20th century and are readily available in stores. From clothing and homeware stores like Next and Marks & Spencer’s to parenting stores like Mother Care and ELC reins can be bought in a variety of forms and styles. Would you like a sparkly unicorn backpack pair of reins, or perhaps Gruffalo reins that look more like German lederhosen than a harness?
For those who were against baby reins their objection largely centred around the similarities between child reins and dog leashes. Having a toddler on reins was seen as controlling a child and treating them as if they were a dog. The restriction on a toddler’s movement and the ability to drag a child around were seen as unkind and cruel. It was suggested that parents should instead hold their child’s hand, place them in a pram or watch them closely. A large amount of concern was also focused on how this reins would impact the child’s psychological growth too.
For those pro-reins the argument was an obvious one, it was better than having your child run out into the road or disappear in a crowd. Anyone who has spent time with a small child will know that toddlers are Houdinis in training. As to the concern that it impacts a child psychologically most parents who chose to employ reins also wore reins as a child. It was not something that ever struck them as a problem.
These were not clean arguments. Instead many felt free to be scathing in their judgements of parents for choosing to use or not to use reins. However, these arguments seem to have died down over the last few years.
Mumsnet, a popular parenting forum, famous for its discussion boards where parents can help (and sometimes criticise) other parents, hasn’t had a thread about child reins since 2015, the latest before that being in 2013. The Telegraph hasn’t run an article about it since 2013 and the most recent results that appear when you google baby reins are simply lists of the ’Top Ten Baby Reins’ or adverts from various stores. It would seem that the world is no longer contesting baby reins.
For Australian student Abbey, baby reins are a no-brainer, “I’d be dead if I wasn’t on them as a child, they caused me no distress and they kept me safe. I’m smiling in all the photos I have in them! All kids love to run around, and it only takes a second for a tragedy to occur. My kids will have them!”
This sentiment is echoed by mothers of young children. Jessica described reins as, “A lifesaver right now when travelling alone, pregnant, and with a runner of a toddler!”
Others admitted that while they would rather not use them they definitely saw the advantages of baby reins, stating that if they ever felt the need they wouldn’t hesitate to use them. Who cares about other people’s judgement?
For those worried about judgement, English father, Sam said, “All those who think you should have restrained your child will come out of the woodwork during the inquest and into the same woodwork will go all those who thought you should not have restrained your child.”