You’re taking your baby out for a walk in the city. But your plan doesn’t go as well as you thought. As you’re trying to enjoy a stroll, the sidewalks are crowded with people, a few passersby are smoking, and then it suddenly begins to rain. You run into a coffee shop for cover.
But then the baby admirers come over to see your baby. One is sneezing; the other is coughing. Before you know it, a stranger is grabbing hold of your baby’s hands, cheek or head. What do you do? How do you deal with strangers trying to touch your baby?
Once, I took my baby to do some shopping, and an older woman walked up to us and told us how cute my baby was. Before I could even utter a “Thank you,” she had grabbed his hand and started to gently rub his little fingers. I was a little nervous because the only thing I could think of was GERMS! But I know the lady meant well, and seeing my baby probably made her morning a little brighter.
The polite, shy person I once was too embarrassed to say anything, so I let it slide. As soon as she left, I reached into my diaper bag and grabbed a wipe to clean his hands.
Are your hands clean?
Strangers think it’s okay to touch a baby’s hand or even their cheeks! But it’s not cool, even if they mean well.
If strangers are trying to get too close, trying to touch or pick up baby, quickly ask, “Are your hands clean?” or “we shouldn’t be touching him if hands aren’t clean.” That will deter strangers from touching your baby.
Babies can get sick.
If the person insists, be polite and honest. “I’m not comfortable with people touching my child, so please don’t. He can get sick.” You can politely say, “I’m sorry; I know you mean well, but my baby is very young and susceptible to germs.”
If you find it challenging to speak openly, say it with a smile so the stranger realizes you’re being a protective mom and not trying to be rude.
Of course, if you’re not concerned about pleasantries, be matter-of-fact and firm in your reply by simply saying, “Please don’t touch my baby.”
Baby has stranger anxiety.
You can also tell people that your baby doesn’t respond well to strangers and that she has stranger anxiety. “She’ll start crying if anyone she doesn’t know touches her” might work to get people to back off. If the stranger persists, be firm. This is your baby, not a piece of fruit at the grocery store.
Turn the other way.
If you see someone eyeing baby and you’re pretty sure they are about to approach you, run! There were plenty of times that I didn’t have the energy to make small talk (think sleepless nights). Avoid bumping into a chatty Cathy by swiftly swivelling the stroller and darting in the opposite direction.
You can also place a breathable cover over baby’s stroller—this usually acts as a good deterrent. These breathable covers keep the air circulating but also prevent admirers ogling. You may have the odd bold person lifting up the netting or cover and still reaching for baby, but this extra layer will give you time to tell the stranger that touching your baby is not okay.
Your baby isn’t fair game for strangers to touch or pick up. You’re your child’s advocate so make sure you are comfortable and most importantly, your baby is!
Revised excerpt of Maria’s book, “Oh Baby! A Mom’s Self-Care Survival Guide for the First Year“.