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Infant Etiquette

Here's the lowdown on infant etiquette. Pass this along to your friends.
ByErin van Vuuren
Updated
Mar 2018
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Image: Lumina Images

We totally understand your dilemma. You’re an old pro at thank-you notes, are a gracious host and have mastered the art of the introduction…but do you know how to treat a newborn? To get your infant interaction etiquette up to par, consider these helpful mom tips that everyone could stand to learn from:

Don’t forget to sanitize

“Don’t touch my baby’s face/hands unless you’re going to use Purell or wash your hands right in front of me first!” —chalmette

Maybe you just washed up before entering the room. Maybe you’re a believer in the immune-boosting power of everyday germs. You know what? It doesn’t matter.

Instead: Hightail it to the nearest sink or sanitizer pump and make the new parents comfortable that you’re clean as a whistle before cuddling their new addition.

Don’t bring your toddler

“Keep your kid away from mine…snot-nosed, on-the-mouth kisses aren’t acceptable.” —jenifairies

Does your 2 year old just love babies? Yep, most of them do. But remember that infants are delicate, and toddlers can be carriers for a ton of infections—particularly if he or she attends day care or preschool.

Instead: Plan for newborn encounters and play it safe by teaching your tot a hands-off approach. You don’t want to be responsible for baby’s first cold (or mommy’s first tantrum).

Don’t criticize

“Please don’t tell me my baby is going to catch pneumonia because she doesn’t have socks on.” —Bhobbsdz

Not your baby? Then it’s not your place to make rules. Refrain from offering unsolicited parenting advice, whether family or not. Well-meant comments about clothing, how to calm tears or how to handle naptimes can easily come across as insults.

Instead: Think whatever you want. Just keep it to yourself.

Don’t guess the sex

“Don’t assume baby genders.” —ariel06

Babies look like babies. Okay, there. We said it. Seriously, it can be really tough to tell whether there’s a Sadie or a Seth in that onesie, so err on the side of caution. (No one wants to hear their little princess described as handsome or manly.)

Instead: Unless baby’s shirt is clearly labeled Mama’s Boy or Sweet Baby Girl, hold your tongue. When you have the urge to gush, go gender-neutral with something like, “What a gorgeous baby!” Cliché? Yes. But for good reason.

Don’t intrude

“If you’re a stranger, don’t touch my baby and please don’t ask to hold her!” —pamarshea

It’s not appropriate to stretch out your arms to, say, a random baby in the Target checkout line (no matter how cute). And asking permission only places the parent in a bind.

Instead: Compliment the beautiful baby and keep your hands to yourself.

Don’t be a chew toy

“Please don’t put your finger/ring/whatever in my baby’s mouth.” —seans_grl

Teething babies love to gnaw, but resist! Even if your hands are clean, the whole gumming-on-a-body-part thing is a bit too personal to try without explicit instructions from his or her parent.

Instead: Ask the parents for a toy to help soothe baby’s need to nibble.

Don’t freak out the family

“Don’t try to scare nervous new parents!” —kirbabe

Just like a pregnant woman doesn’t want to hear about your 37-hour labor, a new mom would rather not be privy to your infant meningitis scare or even your diaper rash horrors. It’s normal for a new baby to bring up old memories, but try to share only the nice ones.

Instead: Come bearing gifts, words of encouragement and maybe even dinner—but leave all scary stories at home!

Don’t snoop

“Questions like ‘Are you nursing?’ should simply not be asked.” —niki81v

A woman’s breasts are her business, and questions about feeding can seem judgmental or offensive (even if your intentions are good). In fact, parents have a ton of touchy decisions to make, so avoid any questions involving their parenting style. It makes it seem like you’re, well, questioning their parenting style.

Instead: Stem your curiosity and ask something less delicate. (Like, “Can I carry that bag for you?”)

Watch: Infant Etiquette

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