As adorable as they are, an infant is not public property available for holding, touching and bouncing – whether a stranger’s child or the child of a friend or family member. So please don’t play pass-the-baby.
I was thrilled when my niece brought her two month old to my daughter’s bridal shower we held at our home this past weekend. I have always been quite close to my niece and the cousins are all very close, so we felt honored that she would use this party as the baby’s first public event with it being the first that my husband, daughters and I were meeting the new addition. I watched as my niece took the baby out of the car and admired her from afar, but was quick to reassure that I would not be touching or picking up the baby – not because of COVID, but because I am a firm believer that people should stay out of baby’s faces.
Some people naturally gravitate toward babies and simply can’t keep their hands off. I, on the other hand, admire them from afar and respect that they are not my “play toy” but are the little people they are. In this case, since this is the first time I’m meeting my great niece, I might as well have been some lady at the grocery store for as much as she knows me. Think about it from the baby’s point of view…
The whole world is new to them. They know their parents’ faces, voices, smell and touch. They spent nine months in a dark, warm environment with muffled sounds that filtered through their mother’s body. Light is new. Noise is new. Touch is new. Cold is new. Chaos is new. Variety is new. Everything is new.
As they grow they are exposed to new experiences and hopefully accept them in a positive way with the support of their parent’s calming voices and warm embrace. A two month old is more comfortable in the world than a two week old. A six month old more comfortable than a two month old. And so on. But still, how would you feel if you went to a party and strangers suddenly hugged you? Or held your hand? Or put their face inches away from yours. Weird right? I sure would.
Have you ever seen a new mother sheepishly apologize when their child gets fussy after being held by a stranger… or strangers? Of course the baby is getting fussy… She has no idea in the world who this person is that is touching her and “in her face.” It doesn’t smell like mom or dad.. doesn’t feel like them.. and doesn’t sound like them. If they haven’t spend significant time with a baby, everyone is a stranger to a child no matter how close they are to the parents. The baby doesn’t know about all those great memories you shared with his parents in college or at summer camp.
Many years ago, when traveling in Mexico, we swam with dolphins. I felt bad that people were kissing the dolphins’ noses bringing their germs and touching the dolphins. The dolphins were well trained and allowed the photo to be taken with each swimmer, but did they really want to do it? The irritations on the dolphins’ noses affirmed the concern to me, but again, what about their feelings? Would you want to have hundreds of strangers a day of all sorts of personal hygiene standards and health issues touching you?
Well babies are the same. Give them their space.
One caveat on all of this. I am not suggesting raising a child in a bubble, never allowing strangers to hold them or having the child be fearful of new people and places. It’s really important to help your child to get comfortable in the cacophony of the world. They will follow your lead – if you’re nervous, they’ll be nervous. If you’re smiling and relaxed, the baby will be more relaxed and accepting of new people and experiences. Just keep in mind that, as adorable as they are, a baby is not a puppy…respect the child’s personal space and emotions, reading their comfort and wishes rather than imposing your own.