I remember when I was pregnant, I saw a lot of articles in baby magazines about how to tactfully stop friends and family from touching your new baby, spreading all kinds of crazy germs. There were even lists of phrases you could use or ways you could make the baby inaccessible to would-be cuddlers. I have to say that I never worried about that with either of my kids. Everyone has been surprisingly respectful of the babies’ personal space. Instead, I think I have the opposite problem – I actually need to learn to determine when it is appropriate to offer to let a friend or family member hold the baby.
Of course, I’m not talking about a tiny infant, but a baby who is old enough to smile and interact and enjoy socializing. And not perfect strangers either, but good friends when we’re visiting their homes, the other moms at playgroup, and extended family at holiday times.
For example, I went to a friends’ shower with my second baby when she was a few months old. I was the only one with a baby in tow, so I tried to keep her out of the way and quiet. It went well, but we did have to leave early when she got a bit fussy. Later, my friend told me that one of the other girls had really wanted to hold the baby but was afraid to ask me. I would have loved for her to have held my baby! I was so worried that the baby would be a disruption that I did not consider the possibility that someone might have wanted to see more of her, not less.
It’s probably due to my own reluctance to hold other peoples’ babies when I was young and single that makes me so oblivious to the fact that sometimes my friends and family would enjoy cuddling the baby for a while. Then there’s also the fear of rejection. I worry that when I offer, they might say “no” because my child is not well behaved. I can’t imagine anyone wanting to hold an already-screaming baby! In reality, my fellow moms at playgroup or the baby’s great-aunts and great-uncles would probably love the chance to help me soothe my fussy baby.
I’d love for them to hold her too, especially when we are in public and I’m chasing the toddler around. We’ve also been working on helping the baby overcome her separation anxiety, so the more she is held by people she trusts other than me, the less anxiety she’ll have the next time. It would be a total win-win!
Then again, I don’t want to be the kind of mom who pushes my baby off onto someone who might not be comfortable holding a baby. “Here, hold her, she loves you! No, really!”.
I wonder sometimes how to know when it is appropriate to ask someone if they would like to hold the baby and when it is best to keep the baby as quiet and unobtrusive as possible. What do you think?