Hands Off My Baby... Please?

By Beth Weinhouse

Here’s a scenario that most new moms can relate to: it’s a beautiful day, and you outfit your baby for a walk in the park. The stroller is ready, the diaper bag is packed, and you’re deliriously happy to be getting out of the house. But soon, you’ll find you can’t get more than a few feet without someone oohing-and-aahing over your little one, commenting on her beautiful eyes, his adorable nose, the sweet flowered jumper she’s wearing. Now, who doesn’t love compliments from admiring strangers?

But then the scene goes from cute — if slightly time-consuming — to a little alarming. Before you realize what’s happening, that seemingly harmless grandmotherly type is reaching into the stroller to touch your baby’s cheek or hands, or — worse — offer a kiss! Maybe she even asks if she can pick your baby up. You don’t want to be rude, but you don’t want to let strangers manhandle your little one, either. What’s a mother to do?

First, don’t feel guilty about protecting your baby, even if it means you ruffle a few strangers’ feathers. Newborns don’t have fully developed immune systems, and common colds or other infections that might be minor inconveniences for adults can be more serious for infants. For at least the first few months, it’s smart to minimize your child’s exposure to strangers.

If you find yourself tongue-tied when faced with a grabby grownup — or child — here are a few no-fail strategies for fending off those well meaning but potentially hazardous baby admirers.

Blame someone else.

Say: “I’m so sorry, but my pediatrician is quite adamant that only immediate family should touch the baby at this age. Her immune system isn’t fully developed, and she’s more likely to get sick if she’s exposed to a lot of different people.”

This one is pretty foolproof, since no one will argue with medical authority. It has the added benefit of being true!

Show concern for their health — or eardrums.

Say: “I’m so sorry, but the baby has had a terrible cold and runny nose, and I wouldn’t want you to get sick from touching her. I’m taking her to the doctor this afternoon.” Alternately: “I wouldn’t touch her if I were you. She cries hysterically when anyone but me comes near her.”

A white lie or not, it's harmless. Most strangers won’t want to risk setting off a tantrum or jeopardizing their own health even for a cuddle with a cute baby.

Keep moving.

If you don’t want to offer explanations or give someone a chance to contradict you by saying “Oh, I’m sure I won’t get sick if I just pick up your baby for just a second!” then just keep walking. A rueful, “I’m sorry, but we’re late for an appointment right now!” will keep your baby safe by making him or her a moving target.

If you find this is a constant problem, why not be proactive? You can cover the stroller with the kind of netting that keeps bugs away, which also deters unwanted touches. Some moms have even resorted to hanging “Please Don’t Touch the Baby” signs on their strollers!

And take heart in the fact that, soon enough, your child may take matters in his or her own hands by protesting with a resounding “No!” when a stranger attempts a touch or a pick-up.

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Our parenting advice is given as suggestions only. We recommend you also consult your healthcare provider, and urge you to contact them immediately if your question is urgent or about a medical condition.