Asking someone to hold her baby was something I never thought twice about before I became a parent. I always assumed it was the highest form of a compliment. “Hi, I don’t know you that well, but it is clear that you have a very good-looking baby. Can I prove how much I mean this by putting my germy paws on him? With the potential to bolt and abduct your baby at any moment? OK, thanks.”
The funny thing is, most people think it is perfectly acceptable to ask to hold a baby they don’t know. However, Internet etiquette “experts” disagree: “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.”
As a now experienced pregnant woman and mother, this stranger-baby-touching trend seems to go right along with perfect strangers reaching out to rub your pregnant belly like a lucky Buddha. I only had this happen to me a few times, but from what I have heard from other women, this uninvited touching has got to stop.
But guess what? Things won’t get any better once your baby enters the world. In fact, they will probably get worse as completely clueless strangers try to “compliment” you by taking your baby off your hands for a minute.
I have to confess that I have contemplated asking to hold a stranger’s baby before. I was on vacation without my kids and I had the perfect alibi all planned out, until my husband stopped me. Granted, I was also kind of buzzed at the time, but I really missed my kids! To me, it seemed perfectly sane to ask to hold a random person’s baby because “my youngest son looks just like him” and “I really miss him” and “Look, I have a picture of him on my phone to prove it; I promise I’m not a kidnapper!”
My husband stopped me before I embarrassed myself or got the cops called. Unfortunately, many strangers don’t have a rational bodyguard around to put the fear of God into them and tell them to stop trying to hold other people’s kids.
The truth is that most new mothers are incredibly uncomfortable with this. Many young babies aren’t vaccinated yet, so there is the danger of germ exposure (which every new parent is utterly terrified of). Other new parents just don’t feel OK handing their infant over to a stranger at the grocery store, even for a few seconds. It’s their baby, and they don’t have to.
To prevent any awkward interactions, let’s all agree to follow a basic rule: Don’t ask to hold a baby you don’t know. It’s that easy.