I am making a plea on behalf of all parents of newborns and babies: “Don’t touch the baby!”
At WBAL-TV, I am surrounded by colleagues who are new parents. And the topic of people randomly getting up close and personal with their new additions has come up on more than one occasion. It has nothing to do with them being in the public eye—this happens to all parents with babies. We all know babies are lovely and bring joy to those who come into contact with them, but for those with a new life in their lives, it can be a little unnerving.
As a new parent, you are so new to it all and you want to protect the hell out of your child. Before you leave the hospital, the nursing staff lectures you about keeping them close when they are so new and about washing hands and not exposing them to germs. This automatically makes parents go on an all-out assault for germs lurking in every corner of the world.
When I had my daughters, my brothers would get so angry with me when I insisted they wash their hands before holding my baby. As they were making that move to grab a finger or pick her up, I would ask, “Could you please wash your hands?” Then they would look at me in exhaustion and call me a germophobe. Well, so be it. I thought, “It’s my baby and I don’t know where
your hands have been.”
Call me crazy. (And they did.) They call us new moms crazy. But it is our nature to nurture and protect. So why is it that other people, knowing this—especially others who have been in the same situation—do this?
DO NOT TOUCH THE BABY! I mean, really? I appreciated that people admired my children and thought they were lovely. But it really puts a parent in a weird situation. I myself am always one to admire a baby. However, I don’t go in and try to touch—unless I have washed my hands and asked permission.
“Oh such a cute baby!” they say and, as their hand goes in, close to your child, you are cringing. Your mind is wondering what to do. How do you push their hand away without looking like a mean person? There were times when I did not. And I should have—with family, and with strangers.
So when I was in the put in that position in public and someone reached in to grab a cheek or a finger, I whipped out that baby wipe so fast I was like a magician and wiped where the unknown hands had been.
It happens in airports, grocery stores, outdoor fairs, parks, offices and more. Sure kids need to be exposed to germs. But when both the parent and child are so new—give them a break. Psychologically, a new parent is not ready for this. We need to ease into it. It’s like when you buy a new car. The first ding really makes you mad. You can’t stop looking at it. The second ding has you walking around the car trying to figure out how it happened and what you could have done to prevent it. After the third ding—you are finally ready to just acknowledge that dings will happen.
It’s the same thing when your baby eats something off the floor—the first time you are sick that you let it happened and tell yourself you are a bad parent. The second time you are still having nightmares. But after the third time, well, you know it’s not going to kill them.
Still, give a parent a break. And to parents of newborns: Have the wipes at the ready. One new mom told me she has found a solution that works for her. When out in public, she puts mosquito netting over the baby’s car seat or stroller. Not a bad idea. Protection from a lot of things.