Georgy’s Motherhood Musings [6]: Don’t Ask to Hold the Baby!

WWhen visiting a new mother and baby there should be a rule. A principle that is common knowledge within the community and which no one questions and everyone respects.

Don’t ask to hold the baby.

Look, it doesn’t matter if you’re the grandmother, the great-great-aunt, her sister, or her bestie… Just don’t even think about it!

I still remember all too well the anxiety I felt in those early weeks when visitors came over and asked to hold my sweet, new baby.

Sure, I was hormonal, and felt fragile and vulnerable. But I just wanted to keep my baby in my arms or in the sling and I didn’t want to let her go.

I remember discussing this in detail with a friend at the time. Just recently she has had her own first baby and the subject came up again. Her take: “I totally get anxious when someone other than me, or my husband, or my mum is holding my baby” she said, “I now understand what you said!”

But we both folded to the pressure. Our babies were handed over to people when we weren’t comfortable doing so, just because we felt that it was the polite thing to do. I look back now and can’t believe I didn’t just say “no, not right now.” I couldn’t find my voice, I just didn’t know how.

What I can say is I will be far more assertive with my next newborn.

Another friend and new mother recently shared with me her situation with her baby and her mother-in-law. This was especially awkward, as her mother-in-law also happens to be a smoker. “How could I say no to a grandma holding her granddaughter, even though I knew how bad the cigarettes were?” she said. “Then my baby stunk of smoke. I felt like the worst mum ever.”

I remember asking my lovely midwife who had cared for me for my whole pregnancy and who was with me throughout my labour and birth, if she would like to have a cuddle of our baby when she was a few days old. It was a genuine offer. This woman had been such an incredible support to me and I wanted her to hold my baby! I will never forget what she said to me: “Oh honey, your baby doesn’t need to be held by me.”

And you know what? That is true. It had never really occurred to me before. Babies don’t NEED to be held by anyone other than their parents. They gain nothing from being passed around like a football, to being exposed to other people’s smell and energy. It is all for the benefit of the visitors, and not at all for the baby.

I can’t tell you how many times, as a midwife, I would come onto a night shift and spend the whole evening dealing with the fallout from the babies who had been passed around all afternoon during visiting hours. It was traumatic for the babies, who would spend the whole night unsettled and screaming, and equally as traumatic for the exhausted new mother.

“But grandparents (aunts, uncles, friends, elderly neighbours) need to bond with the baby too!” I hear you cry. Of course they do, but not in the first hours, days and weeks after birth. This is a time for mum and dad to fall in love with their new baby and a time for baby to adjust to life on the outside (and this is not always a smooth transition.) This process should not be interrupted. There is plenty of time down the track for cuddles with trusted, close family and friends.

There will be times when a new mother will desperately want someone else to hold and cuddle her baby. So she can, for example, finally eat her lunch, get up to have a shower, or have a nap. If you make yourself available, one of these situations is bound to come up. Then the mother will be grateful that there is someone she trusts to keeps watch over her precious bundle. So wait patiently, and your time to snuggle and enjoy the new baby will come.

Just try to be sensitive and make sure that this time is when she is good and ready, and it is on her own terms.

(Big thank you to my bestie Sarah and her baby Ella Spicer-Bell for allowing me to use this beautiful photo of them snuggling after birth.)

By |March 20th, 2016|7 Comments

About the Author:

Georgy is an IBCLC and Midwife who lives in the Northern Rivers of NSW with her husband and two beautiful children.

7 Comments

  1. Jodie March 21, 2016 at 9:04 pm

    Love this. There is such societal pressure to both pass around your own newborn, and to cuddle other people’s. Although I wanted to be relaxed as a new Mum and let ‘the village’ get to know my baby, every instinct I had told me to hold him tight and keep him close. Cuddles can wait a few weeks, people!

    • Georgy March 23, 2016 at 6:36 am

      Thank you for your reply Jodie, I’m glad it resonated with you. I hope that you, and your village, are enjoying your baby.

  2. Jessica March 29, 2016 at 1:18 pm

    I don’t think Anne-Marie quite grasps what Gregory is saying. I know when my baby was born I felt extremely fragile and hormonal. I wasn’t even asked but my baby was just taken from me and passed around. I found it very distressing but couldn’t seem to find the words to get my baby back.
    People get very excited and don’t think about how the mum must be feeling, quite often even those who have children have forgotten how hard the first few weeks can be. So I totally agree with this article.

    • Georgy April 14, 2016 at 8:24 am

      Hi Jessica, I’m sorry you had that experience when your baby was born. Everyone experiences the post-partum period differently and not everyone has family or friends who are understanding of this. I hope you are enjoying your baby 🙂 xx

  3. May April 25, 2016 at 2:07 pm

    Thank you Georgy for the post. In hindsight, I wish I had the courage to ask my baby’s grandparents to keep away, at the very least for the first few days while in hospital, so baby and I could get some well needed rest.

    Yes I appreciated the help afterwards and yes I would love for my baby to bond with them, but my baby was mostly sleeping (or trying to be) when they were visiting during those very early days anyway! There’ve been plenty of times since then (and hopefully many more years to come) for them to bond and enjoy each other’s company. Parenthood is hard enough without having to please other people’s wishes regarding your own baby!

  4. Carly April 29, 2016 at 2:02 pm

    This article is SPOT on!!! The anxiousness I felt in those first few weeks when everyone wanted to come and hold my baby was awful. My mum was amazing but my mother in law couldn’t believe it that we didn’t want her to come and stay for the first few weeks, and her daughter started texting me saying how much granny misses “her” baby boy and that she just stares at his photo all day. Talk about trying to drag you down off your amazing newborn high! I really just wanted to focus on my baby and husband during this incredibly special time for us (especially after we had had a miscarriage at 12 weeks) but instead I was being made to feel guilty and selfish! Grandmas should know better, they were first time mothers once..

  5. Anna May 29, 2016 at 10:57 pm

    I’m pregant with our 2nd and my husband and I have just had this discussion before I read this post.
    This baby being baked isn’t being held by anyone for an obligation cuddle.
    The “colic” baby 1st time around and how anxious I felt isn’t worth it.

    Our 2.5 daughter is happy say “no thank you. I said NO! Thank you.”
    When comes to unwanted cuddles so I’m taking a page out of her book.

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