Family Etiquette: Babies

Family Etiquette: Babies

17th January 2022

“At the time of writing, it has only been a decade since I was the mother of a baby, yet there have been so many new concepts in the parenting world since then, from the current trend of “sip and see” parties to dedicated Instagram pages for babies.

Now that my children are older, the tables have turned, and I am the person who attends new baby celebrations, rather than having them thrown for me. From both old and new experiences, I have curated a list of house rules to follow.”

DON’T TOUCH: When I was pregnant, people loved to reach out and touch my pregnant belly, often without asking me if it was okay. If someone had done that when I wasn’t pregnant, it could have been seen as harassment, yet the minute you start growing a bump, people feel that it’s somehow allowed. Touching a pregnant woman’s belly – or even asking to touch it – is a definite etiquette no-no, because it puts the woman in an uncomfortable position.

DON’T COMMENT: Just as you should keep your hands to yourself, it’s best to keep your comments to yourself too. Don’t be tempted to try to predict the baby’s gender by the way the mother carries. And refrain from asking her it she’s in her ninth month or if she’s having twins. It’s fine, however, to ask when she’s due – just be polite in response to her answers. I wouldn’t tell a pregnant mother horror stories or of your endless sleepless nights with a newborn, for instance! If you say anything, it should be positive and loving. I feel it’s always best to be a good listener and, if asked questions, to keep your responses upbeat and nurturing.

When a friend reaches out to you for advice, let them know you are there for them, but watch what you say. Nobody is truly prepared for being a first-time (or even second-time) parent, so let them have their own experiences and try not to overload them with your stories. Be supportive, not a know-it-all.

TAKING YOUR CHILD TO VISIT A BABY: If you are visiting your friend and would like to take your child along, it’s courteous to ask if you can bring them – don’t assume they are invited. Some new parents are wary of children visiting, and you should respect their wishes. If your child has a sniffle or lingering cold, leave them at home; the last thing you want to do is bring a sick child into a house with a newborn. Children may sometimes be harboring germs before they show any symptoms, so they should keep their distance from the baby regardless and follow the new mother’s lead.

Children do love babies, so if you do take your child along, make sure they don’t overwhelm the newborn. My rule would be to let them touch only the baby’s hands or their little feet, and to try to keep them away from the baby’s face.

RESPECT THE PARENT’S WISHES: When a friend has a baby, make plans to see the newborn, but on the new parent’s terms. Be sensitive to their needs. Keep your first visits brief and try not to overstay your welcome. Don’t be offended if your friend is overwhelmed and unable to make plans; this is a joyous yet transitional period in a person’s life, and some people want to have the first month to themselves to bond with the baby. You need to be there for your friend, but make it about them and not about yourself. Let them know you are thinking of them by sending some celebratory flowers.

For more tips on modern etiquette for families, shop Manners Begin Before Breakfast.

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