A recent Dear Prudence column on Slate.com heard from a woman who had a burning question about new baby etiquette. The reader was in her mid-twenties and her friends were starting families. She wanted to support her friends and congratulate them on their new baby, but did not want to actually hold the baby. She confessed she was “not a baby” person, although she did love kids.
Dear Prudence, AKA Emily Yoffe, had some advice which included faking a cough or a sniffle. If that didn’t work, maybe sucking it up and just holding the baby for two minutes and handing the baby back to mom would appease mom and get the situation over with.
The reader explained that as a female, she felt expected to want to hold a baby. I guess the question looming larger asks, is there something inherently wrong with a woman for not wanting to hold a baby?
I don’t think so.
Let’s face it. Holding a baby can be scary. Their heads are so wobbly and they are so incredibly delicate. Babies are so susceptible to germs. Some people are just afraid of hurting this little precious being or God forbid, dropping him.
Before I had kids, I was less comfortable with holding babies than I am now having had three babies of my own. Most people who are uneasy with it are simply unsure of what to do. I don’t see anything wrong with it or feel that anyone should be forced into it either. I only handed my babies to people who asked to hold them for the specific reason that I didn’t want to put anyone in an uncomfortable situation.
I have been in certain circles where a new mom will force her baby upon an unwilling visitor and it’s awkward for everyone. The baby cries, the mom hovers, and the person holding the baby is just counting the seconds until the baby is back in his mother’s arms. I have a family member who will only hold a baby when she can talk and walk, but no newborns. There’s nothing wrong with that.
A few years ago, while visiting a new baby, my daughter (7 years old at the time) was given a new baby to hold while I was in another room. The mother walked away from her to tend to a guest. Out of the corner of my eye, I glanced toward the living room, and saw my daughter sitting very uncomfortably holding a crying baby, trying desperately to soothe him, and looking as frantic as the screaming newborn. I quickly went over to her for the baby’s sake and also for my daughter. Imagine if she dropped the baby!
Like the reader in the Dear Prudence column, I do believe that being female is equated in some families as wanting to naturally hold babies. Maybe they think they’re preparing a girl to be a mom or that cuddling babies comes naturally to girls. But it doesn’t for all girls, and not every little girl even wants to be a mom. Interestingly, no one has ever asked my son to sit and hold a baby.
Every mom has their own comfort level regarding holding babies, and every new mom thinks their baby is adorable and wants to show him or her off to the world. This is purely understandable, but I’m not sure new moms should just plop their baby into a visitor’s arms unless that visitor specifically asks.
Image: Flickr: Yousef Malallah