Prince William and Kate Middleton, the Duke and Duchess of Cambridge, welcomed baby number three on April 23, 2018. With the Internet going crazy over the news, it’s a good time to review basic baby etiquette. What do you need to know?
Sharon Schweitzer, an international etiquette and modern manners experts, who is the founder of Access to Culture, offers these newborn and baby etiquette tips:
Modern Manners in the U.S. for visiting a newborn and mom after they return home:
- The birth of a newborn is a blessing. Family and friends are understandably excited about the opportunity to meet the newborn and check on mom.
- Newborns are unique; royal babies especially so. Newborn visits are determined not only by neonatal physicians, pediatricians, and specialists but also by Royal protocol. In the U.S., there isn’t a specific time expectation for visitors.
- In the U.S., politely ask the new parents via email or text when would be a convenient time to visit. Due to the new arrival, family phones may be on silent, so wait patiently for a response.
- Some new parents may need 1 -2 weeks to get settled after the birth, depending on the newborn’s unique immune system, the mother’s recovery and private medical aspects. Don’t take it personally if you’re not welcomed within the first few days.
- Respect the parent’s wishes; especially visiting times and length of stay.
General U.S. customs when visiting a newborn and mom:
- Wash and clean your hands before visiting. Have a manicure before if possible. Bring anti-bacterial hand wipes to use when visiting to show you are conscientious.
- Always wash your hands and follow any other parental sanitation procedures.
- Refrain from wearing perfume; scent may be too strong for the mother or newborn.
- Avoid expectations of holding the newborn since they may be napping, colicky, or feeding. There will be plenty of time later, but right birth may not be the best moment.
- Avoid expecting the mother to wake a sleeping newborn.
- Avoid arriving empty-handed. Bring a favorite home-cooked meal, baked goods, bottled water, mom’s favorite fruit juice or snack, something for the baby, a toy or book for an older sibling.
- If the mother doesn’t have time to open the gift when you’re there, don’t take offense; instead, ask her what you can do to help around the house.
- Offer to run errands, pick up dry cleaning, bring supplies, buy groceries.
- Neonatal physicians and pediatricians give varying advice, as do grandmothers, about children visiting newborns. However, toddlers are rarely without a runny nose and notoriously put their hands in their mouth or ears, so hand washing quickly becomes ineffective. Currently, another newborn visiting seems to have the blessing of the medical community because they won’t touch the newborn. As for older kiddos 7-8 years old, depending on maturity level, if they can be trusted to wash their hands and look at the baby, but not handle him or her, that’s okay. It’s recommended that young children stay home.
Tips for U.S. hospital visits:
- Follow the hospital visiting hours and regulations which may differ by facility and state.
- Visiting a newborn in the hospital, especially if the newborn is in NICU, comes with very strict hospital protocol to be followed.
- Ask the mother or father beforehand what steps you should take when visiting, and follow all instructions given by nurses or doctors.
Tips for parents encountering strangers or people in public who want to touch the baby:
- As the parent, you reserve the right to determine what is acceptable for touching and holding the baby.
- Ask others to please respect your wishes as far as physical affection.
- Develop a few phrases in your own authentic style. Consider these as a starting point: “You are welcome to take a quick peek, but she is sleeping, so please don’t touch her face or hands” “You may look, but please don’t touch him, as he is a newborn.”
Tips for new parents handling social media:
- It is a good idea for parents to request that visitors refrain from posting newborn photos. However, they are sleep deprived and adjusting a beautiful new life change and may not remember to say something to all visitors. It’s modern manners to ask the parents before taking photos or making social media posts.
- Ask before taking photos of a newborn.
- Ask before posting ANY newborn photos to any social media platform.
- Parents may wish to protect their family’s privacy by refraining from posting pictures to social media. Respect this decision.
- If you’re unsure whether new parents are okay with you sharing that adorable snapshot of the sleeping newborn – ask. An indicator may be that they haven’t posted anything online about their newborn.
- If parents do post pictures on social media, be respectful and avoid sharing those photos on your own page.