Loving Mom Explains Why She Makes Her Adopted Son Wear A Leash and Backpack
There’s a story to every picture, and it’s always better to hear or read it before concluding.
What pops into your mind in the first few moments of spotting parents leading their kids on a leash? Most people would assume they don’t understand the difference between a child and a pet, and in reality, this is simply cruel thinking. Parenting is different for everybody and while it may not be the most conventional of methods, any parent would have to be stretched pretty hard to use a safety leash on their child.
Before Rachel Butcher decided to get a backpack leash for her adopted son, she knew she was going to face a lot of judgment from the public, but she could never have imagined the brutal mom-shaming that followed. 
In July 2019, Rachel penned down an emotional story on Facebook to explain her journey. She puts her son on cute backpack leashes to control his quick movements due to hyperactivity. He was born with Neonatal Abstinence Syndrome and a couple of years down the line, he’s far more energetic than his mother, who can’t always keep up.
“Today was hard. Even as I start to write this now, I’m crying and clouded in shame and embarrassment. I know I shouldn’t feel this way but as I said, today was hard.
“Our family and friends know our son is adopted, they also know he was born drug-addicted. He has more energy and speed than your average 21-month-old. Aside from his already rough beginning of drug exposure, we know little to nothing about his bio family and their genetics. So he could be more hyper just from experiences that I don’t know of.”
Since people won’t know all this about her child without being told, she constantly gets shamed by the “’Karens’ and ‘Susans’ of the world.” Rachel admits that she was once eagerly judgmental of parents who put their children on leashes when she visited Disney World ten years ago. Today, however, she has unlearned to re-learn.
Explaining why she can’t keep up with her boy, the mom wrote:
“My child runs faster than me. Due to scar tissue from my hysterectomy, I do have trouble running sometimes to keep up with him. Let it also be known, I religiously ran races and ran every day before my surgery. So it’s not a lack of laziness.
My child also hates to be confined, whether it’s a car seat, high chair, stroller or shocker, a shopping cart. I use Shipt more often than I should because it is incredibly hard to go out with him alone sometimes. But, guess what, life doesn’t always work that way and we have to go out and get things done.”
And then the shaming got out of hand
The day she wrote that story, on July 11, 2019, Rachel explains that she’d experienced the worst of the judgment and it deeply broke her heart.
“But today, today was worse. We went to Target and we wore his backpack and he did AMAZING. He was HAPPY, LAUGHING, SMILING, and yes, running, but he was close to me.”
From about five women who could have minded their businesses, she received powerfully questioning stares that made her grab her items so quickly and head back to the safety of her home.
“I don’t know why women feel the need to judge and mom shame so often. What works for your child doesn’t necessarily work for mine. I’m glad your little Lucy is perfect and never has meltdowns.
“My child isn’t talking yet and we have a communication barrier. He attends occupational and speech therapy and he is THRIVING. He is such a happy, beautiful little boy with A LOT of energy.”
Rachel explains at the end that her post is not intended to cause a pity party, but she’s appealing to the public to be less judgmental of parents who put kids on leashes, at least for the sake of the children.
“My son does not have a disability, he is a runner. My neighbors know he is a runner, so much so that they chase after him too. It takes a village to raise a kid and my village rocks.”
Kid leash safety: Forget the trolls, what do the pros think?
Securing children on leashes has been a controversial topic for as long as it has existed, and it’s not about to be generally accepted as normal any time soon. From a medical standpoint, doctors are more worried about the possibility of injuries rather than the “morality” of leashing a child. Every kid is unique and parents have to deal with vastly different situations in their daily lives. While some can have their children constantly supervised, others have to multitask and still keep a steady eye on their young ones. Parents experience the worst kind of fear when they have to search for a child, and leashing might be a helpful solution for them.
The important question is, how safe are leashes?
Experts say that while there has never been a confirmed report of an injury from the use of a child harness, the leash doesn’t exactly substitute for appropriate supervision.  This means that although the leash does not cause any harm, it may not prevent them, either.
“We don’t have data on injuries associated with the leashes, but we also lack information about why parents use them, and what any benefit might be,” says Benjamin Hoffman, M.D., F.A.A.P., chair of the injury prevention council at the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP). 
Dr. Hoffman doesn’t support the use of leashes due to the risk of injuries such as choking or entanglement, and in the worst-case scenario, the child could fall from a forceful pullback and sustain a head injury.
“I would rather see a child in a stroller than on a leash,” he says.
From another perspective, Dr. Adam Spanier from the University of Maryland School of Medicine explains that if safely used, a leash could be a helpful alternative for parents.
“It’s a personal decision,” he said. “This might be a product for a child that tends to wander off if not closely supervised, for crowds to avoid getting lost, for a child with developmental delays, and for children with impulse control issues.“
He explains that harnesses or backpack-style leashes are the best options, rather than wrist-held or hand-held leashes. Parents should also check any harness product on the Consumer Product Safety Commission and refer to the manufacturer’s manual before use.
However, he still warns about the possible dangers, including choking and falls. “I am not specifically endorsing leash use. There could also be some psychological distress, depending on the child’s age.”
Using a leash is a very individual choice, and it’s not for others to judge whether it’s the correct one for a stranger’s child.