Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Don't Touch That Baby!

Welcome to the September 2013 Carnival of Natural Parenting: Staying Safe

This post was written for inclusion in the monthly Carnival of Natural Parenting hosted by Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama. This month our participants have shared stories and tips about protecting our families. Please read to the end to find a list of links to the other carnival participants.

A frustrating and all too common experience for new parents is that upon taking their sweet baby somewhere public, or even to a family gathering, people not only want to touch the baby but also think they are entitled to, and frequently do so without warning. Depending who, where, your comfort level, and the health of your baby, this might not be a big deal. But if you aren't comfortable with it, your baby isn't comfortable with it, or the health condition of the toucher and/or baby mean this could put your child's health at risk, this unrequested touching can be a huge problem. For example, my 7 month old has Down syndrome which means he is at higher risk than a typical baby of developing a respiratory illness or ear infection. So what's a mama (or dad) to do? Here are my top strategies:

This is by far the most effective strategy I've found to prevent unwanted touching of my child. Usually the worst case scenario with baby in a carrier is that someone will shake his foot. Most people who are inclined to touch the baby despite the carrier will simply put their hand on the baby's back. I don't personally mind this because I know they and my baby both probably enjoy the warmth of that touch, and I can throw the carrier in the wash when I get home and know the risk of germ exposure is pretty minimal since they didn't even touch my baby at all. 
If you or your baby are bothered by even this sort of touch, keep your hand on the baby's back yourself. Most people won't put their hand over yours. 

Enlist an ally
My mother-in-law obviously knows about my son having Down syndrome and what all that entails as far as heightened risk of respiratory illness. She also knows all the old ladies at church much better than I do, and knows which ones need warned off of touching him, and how best to address them thanks to many years of chatting with them. If you find someone who can help casually mention your "no touching" policy to would-be-cuddlers, they can relieve a huge stress off of you!

Offer hands and wash hands
My other strategy if I can tell touching is inevitable is to preemptively offer a body part to the toucher. Usually for us this means a foot or a hand, which we then remove the shoe from and/or wash immediately upon arriving home, and make sure it doesn't go in his mouth in the meantime. This actually works really well (but I sit in the back seat of the car by the baby. Otherwise it'd be tough to keep feet and hands out of his mouth!)

Honestly I think it's somewhat ridiculous that new parents have to be so vigilant about not having other people touching their baby all the time, but for some reason it's considered a socially acceptable behavior to touch babies without asking their parents. These strategies help our family avoid unwanted touch without having to tell every person we meet about the links between DS and respiratory illnesses, and I hope they help your family too!


Carnival of Natural Parenting -- Hobo Mama and Code Name: MamaVisit Hobo Mama and Code Name: Mama to find out how you can participate in the next Carnival of Natural Parenting!

Please take time to read the submissions by the other carnival participants:

(This list will be updated by afternoon September 10 with all the carnival links.)

  • Stranger Danger — Jennifer at Hybrid Rasta Mama shares her approach to the topic of "strangers" and why she prefers to avoid that word, instead opting to help her 4-year-old understand what sorts of contact with adults is appropriate and whom to seek help from should she ever need it.
  • We are the FDA — Justine at The Lone Home Ranger makes the case that when it comes to food and drugs, parents are necessarily both their kids' best proponent of healthy eating and defense against unsafe products.
  • You Can't Baby Proof Mother Nature — Nicole Lauren at Mama Mermaid shares how she tackles the challenges of safety when teaching her toddler about the outdoors.
  • Bike Safety With Kids — Christy at Eco Journey In the Burbs shares her tips for safe cycling with children in a guest post at Natural Parents Network.
  • Spidey Sense — Maud at Awfully Chipper used a playground visit gone awry to teach her children about trusting their instincts.
  • Watersustainablemum explains how she has used her love of canoeing to enable her children to be confident around water
  • Safety without baby proofing — Hannabert at Hannahandhorn talks about teaching safety rather than babyproofing.
  • Coming of Age: The Safety Net of Secure AttatchmentGentle Mama Moon reflects on her own experiences of entering young adulthood and in particular the risks that many young women/girls take as turbulent hormones coincide with insecurities and for some, loneliness — a deep longing for connection.
  • Mistakes You Might Be Makings With Car Seats — Car seats are complex, and Brittany at The Pistachio Project shares ways we might be using them improperly.
  • Could your child strangle on your window blinds? — One U.S. child a month strangles to death on a window blind cord — and it's not always the obvious cords that are the danger. Lauren at Hobo Mama sends a strong message to get rid of corded blinds, and take steps to keep your children safe.
  • Tips to Help Parents Quit Smoking (and Stay Quit) — Creating a safe, smoke-free home not only gives children a healthier childhood, it also helps them make healthier choices later in life, too. Dionna at Code Name: Mama (an ex-smoker herself) offers tips to parents struggling to quit smoking, and she'll be happy to be a source of support for anyone who needs it.
  • Gradually Expanding Range — Becca at The Earthling's Handbook explains how she is increasing the area in which her child can walk alone, a little bit at a time.
  • Safety Sense and Self Confidence — Do you hover? Are you overprotective? Erica at ChildOrganics discusses trusting your child's safety sense and how this helps your child develop self-confidence.
  • Staying Safe With Food Allergies and Intolerances — Kellie at Our Mindful Life is sharing how she taught her son about staying safe when it came to his food allergies.
  • Don't Touch That Baby!Crunchy Con Mom offers her 3 best tips for preventing unwanted touching of your baby.
  • Playground Wrangling: Handling Two Toddlers Heading in Opposite Directions — Megan at the Boho Mama shares her experience with keeping two busy toddlers safe on the playground (AKA, the Zone of Death) while also keeping her sanity.
  • Letting Go of "No" and Taking Chances — Mommy at Playing for Peace tries to accept the bumps, bruises and tears that come from letting her active and curious one-year-old explore the world and take chances.
  • Preventing Choking in Babies and Toddlers with Older Siblings — Deb Chitwood at Living Montessori Now gives tips on preventing choking in babies and toddlers along with Montessori-inspired tips for preventing choking in babies and toddlers who have older siblings working with small objects.
  • Keeping Our Children Safe: A Community and National Priority — September has many days and weeks dedicated to issues of safety; however, none stir the emotions as does Patriot Day which honors those slain the terrorist attacks. Along with honoring the victims, safety officals want parents to be ready in the event of another disaster whether caused by terrorists or nature. Here are their top tips from Mary at Mary-andering Creatively.
  • A Complete Family: Merging Pets and Offspring — Ana at Panda & Ananaso shares the ground rules that she laid out for herself, her big brown dog, and later her baby to ensure a happy, safe, and complete family.
  • Be Brave — Shannon at Pineapples & Artichokes talks about helping her kids learn to be brave so that they can stay safe, even when she's not around.
  • Catchy PhrasingMomma Jorje just shares one quick tip for helping kids learn about safety. She assures there are examples provided.
  • Know Your Kid — Alisha at Cinnamon&Sassfras refutes the idea that children are unpredictable.
  • Surprising car seat myths — Choosing a car seat is a big, important decision with lots of variables. But there are some ways to simplify it and make sure you have made the safest choice for your family. Megan at Mama Seeds shares how, plus some surprising myths that changed her approach to cars eats completely!
  • I Never Tell My Kids To Be Careful — Kim is Raising Babes, Naturally, by staying present and avoiding the phrase "be careful!"


Kellie Barr said...

Oh, this post brings back memories! My daughter was born at 31 weeks, and weighed 3 lbs 11 oz. When we brought her home from the NICU, she wore doll clothes! But people everywhere we went thought they had a right to touch this teensy, tiny baby! I definitely found that the baby carrier was a huge help in keeping people from touching her. If someone particularly grungy, or with snot dripping from their nose was headed towards her, I would cover her with the tail of the ring sling. I also used my body to deflect people quite often. They would reach for her and I would turn my body 90* so that my side was facing them and my baby was facing away. I would do this while smiling and engaging them in some small talk about the baby, and I never had anyone get rude with me about it. Little old ladies would sometimes say something about me not wanting them to touch the baby, then, and I would politely explain that she had been born so early that we had to be VERY careful about letting anyone else touch her and that everyone had to wash their hands or have hand sanitizer first.

I also always carried hand sanitizer and would offer it to people who wanted to hold or touch the baby. Sometimes they would prefer to go wash instead, but it gave me a way to make it ok for them to touch her without making them feel badly - I hope!

And I remember the first time I saw hand sanitizer spray somewhere. My eyes got huge and I looked at my husband and said, "I could shoot strangers at 3 feet with that! Amazing!" Hehehe!

Becca @ The Earthlings Handbook said...

I was blessed with a child with an amazing immune system, but of course I didn't know that at first, and I was startled at how much people wanted to touch him. Many of the older people in our neighborhood are immigrants from the former Soviet Union, and apparently it is normal to them to be very physically friendly with babies and toddlers. When I was loaded down with baby and diaper bag, I would often take a seat near the front of the bus among the older people, and they would reach right into the baby carrier to stroke his cheek or even stick a finger in his mouth!! Your points about babywearing and keeping your own hands around the baby are good ones; those tactics did deter a lot of people. For the ones I couldn't avoid, I just tried to trust that the immunities from breastfeeding would protect my child, and it did seem to work for him.

Erica @ ChildOrganics said...

This post touches home with me. My middle daughter was very fragile and we had to stay away from people for most of the winter for fear of her getting sick. So we were super diligent when we were around people to be sure they weren't touch her,etc. Babywearing was a huge help to us in that area. Sometimes I felt like I was being mean, when I would decline to let other people hold her, but a Mama's gotta do what a Mama's gotta do! Thanks for sharing!

Hannah, Horn, and Hannabert said...

It is kind of like babies and pregnant bellies are personal property in some places...Baby carriers do work to deflect a lot of touching.

Anonymous said...

I think touch is such an ingrained bonding tool, and babies are just so darned cuddly, that most people automatically reach to touch that sweetness. I know I'm guilty of just needing to feel that soft baby skin. But I'll try to remember to ask, it is polite :) Thanks for the reminder!!

Dionna @ Code Name: Mama said...

Oops - that anonymous comment was me - inadvertent last minute click! ;)

Crunchy Con Mommy said...

Kellie- that's brilliant with the RS tail! And the spray sanitizer thing made me giggle :)

Becca-i wonder how much cultural differences play into touching babies. I've never thought about that at all before!

Erica-I know, I feel mean sometimes too and I just get so angry. I shouldn't have to feel mean for protecting my child!!

Hannah-great point! No one every tried to touch my belly luckily. I do not like my personal space invaded!

Dionna-I think that's probably the case with 99.99999% of people who touch babies without asking. They don't do it to be sneaky or anything, they justness a cute baby and don't even think of that there might be a reason the parents would object, whether that is health of the child or just personal autonomy!

Lauren Wayne said...

This is a great list for helping people avoid unwanted baby touching! I'm assuming babies are just so sweet and cuddly that some people can't help themselves, and that some people are just naturally touchy — so they don't even think twice about reaching out for a grab of the cute chubbiness. My 6-year-old loves reaching out to ruffle babies' hair or pat their heads, for instance, just because he loves them so much. But when you need (or want) to keep that physical groping at bay, it's great to have these techniques to lean on! I'll try to help my kids be more understanding about asking permission first, too, as we do with dogs. (Was that a weird leap? lol)

Janet Dubac said...

Great Tips! This is my problem too. My baby is such a cutie (of course, i think all moms think the same way) and most relatives and even strangers would want to touch her face or carry her and I don't want them to do that because she gets anxious. They don't understand it, they think I am being too selfish but it is so not true. With these tips, I hopefully can reduce the number of hands touching her.

Christy said...

I totally agree! Huge pet peeve when people touched my babies or got in their faces in close proximity. I would never do that to an adult - it would be perceived as rude and inappropriate. Why then is it ok to do to a baby? Is it because people perceive babies as our objects? My biggest frustration was people I knew coming up and literally taking my babies our of my arms as they ask if they can hold them. My oldest really was not comfortable with anyone other than me or her dad (or grandparents) for the first year of her life and would scream as soon as anyone else held her. When I tried to tell people this they would laugh that I was an overprotective first time parent. Then when she cried they would tell me to relax, that babies were meant to cry. So I never touch babies or ask to hold them. They aren't my baby or even a member of my family, so why should I hold them?

Shannon Baker said...

This article is mind blowing. When I read this article, I enjoyed.

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