Do you feel awkward around babies and small children? Unsure how to interact? I got some Cool Mom Jamie, field tested tricks to help you out!
If you can believe it, I too had a fear of babies and children. Even while I was pregnant! I vividly remember meeting Baby Daddy’s friends for the first time and they had just had a baby. Everyone was taking turns holding the baby and my stomach filled with dread. He’s going to see how unnatural I am holding a baby and break up with me now. I’m going to drop this lady’s kid and everyone is going to shun me and send me to jail. Everyone is looking at me, they can tell I don’t fit in!!! I was engaged in a full on assault against myself, passing time way too fast because then it was my turn to hold the baby. I was in such a state of panic that I asked the mom if I could sit down to hold the baby (feeling more secure seated) and she pulled up a chair to let me sit down with her new baby. I couldn’t enjoy the cuteness of the moment, I couldn’t savor his newbornness, I was crippled with fear. I felt exposed, like everyone could see how unnatural I was holding a newborn. Baby Daddy immediately knew I was uncomfortable and came to took the baby from me moments later. I was humiliated, I failed the first test of femininity in front of him and he knew it. Later in the car he joked about how awkward I looked and while I could laugh at the absurdity from the distance of the car, the nagging baby-fear bugged my pride. The irony was, I was pregnant that day and didn’t know it yet.
A week or two later we got the good news that we were expecting and then all those baby fears really bubbled up to the surface. None of my LA or NY friends had children yet. None of them were even married or engaged. Baby Daddy and I have no nieces or nephews for reference or experience. I had seen no one up close with a baby. No blueprint, no experience, just Google, my doctors and my out-of-state sorority sisters to guide me through the most significant experience of our lives.
And now you guys have me! Let me help you navigate those awkward moments with a baby or toddler so you don’t feel like a failed human.
I have 10 tips right here for anyone who is about to be exposed to a baby and wants to look cool.
COOL MOM’s FAKE IT TIL YOU MAKE IT GUIDE FOR HANDLING YOUR FIRST BABY
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You have to do this for a few reasons, the primary being you are disgusting (no offense, but you are). The other reason you want to do this is it signals to the mom that you’ve got this and you’re no rookie. If you are really nervous – and don’t laugh, people get serious baby anxiety – take a few deep breaths. I’m lucky enough to have a yoga teacher for a sister and she always calms me by reminding me to “inflate my basketball” when I inhale. Try that while you sing 3 happy birthdays under hot water with unscented soap.
9) Take Your Time.
Don’t feel the pressure to over compensate for your nerves by gunning straight for the person holding the baby and demand to hold it. Also don’t do this if you’re actually excited it’s thirsty and needy and no one likes that. So you see people are holding the baby, use that time to pay attention. Watch the baby. Is it a chill baby, or is it a fussy baby? There are ways to handle both but you have to identify what you’re working with. How old is this thing is it sturdy yet or is it fragile? A quick way to assess fragility: if the adults are tenderly scooping the head and neck you have yourself a Fragile; if the adults are slinging the kid with one arm like Dancing With the Stars you have yourself a Sturdy who is most likely an older baby. Is the mom nervous, is the mom relaxed? By stalling and taking your time you can increase the amount of information you have about this kid before you need to touch it.
I know I mentioned sitting above in such a way that it sounds like quitting but it’s actually a great move. You’re more stable and can put the baby in your lap as a secure space if you are sitting down. Older kids will climb on you if you’re seated because you’re less intimidating than someone standing up over them.
7) Eye Contact
I might be burying this gem at number 7, but it’s actually an MVP move. Eye contact. Babies and toddlers have limited if any vocabulary, the only way they feel seen and can connect is eye contact and touch. So disconnect from the adult chatter and really give that lump in your arms some good eye contact. This always results in a bond. Steal looks with the baby if you can through out the time you’re around the baby. In this way you’re communicating to the baby and telling the baby you see him or her when I guarantee you everyone else is talking about the baby as if the baby is just a prop.
6) Mirror and Mimic
Remember what I just said about them not having real words? Well they still are trying to talk to you! Those gurgles and clucks and different noises are attempts at communication. Do them back. That’s right, gurgle and coo right back to the baby. This baby now thinks you two are in on a joke – and in a way you guys are! You’re having your own private conversation together and sharing a moment and while you the adult might not understand the details of the conversation, the result is the baby is now connecting to you. Bonus points for mirroring or mimicking the emotion – if the baby coos with a smile you smile too when you coo – if the baby points to their favorite toy and says BORGLEBOP well you should know you just met Borglebop and he’s cool he’s one of us. Yes you will probably feel self conscious but I guarantee by the time you leave the baby wants to make sure you say goodbye to him or her.
5) Follow their lead.
Too often I see adults redirect a baby who is expressing interest in something, to something the adult wants the baby to see. Try this instead when you see the baby clopping and banging this block on another block: grab a block in the same color and bang it on the other block too! Get down with their game. Don’t grab the crayons and the glitter and try to show them coloring, play block drums!! Remember you’re trying to join their world and see what they see, not demand their attention for things you want them to see.
4) Respect STOP and it’s nonverbal cues:
Do not be the Pincher or the Tickler, these are creepy and not-loved people we seem to run into all the time. My personal theory is adults revert to the cheek pinch or the hard tickles because they’re nervous about their own struggle to connect with a kid and the result is a gross over correct. I mean fine whatever the excuse like just don’t. A kid is going to smile and say MORE or do the sign for more which is two closed fists clapping basically. If you see hands up, red face or hear the word “Stop” you need to stop. Listen to the kid. I hate to point out the obvious but I do, anyone who keeps tickling or doing something to a baby that is asking you to stop is being a bully. More and Stop look very different so we should be able to tell who wants to play more and who has had enough even if the baby can’t talk yet.
3) Phone Down, Head UP
For starters don’t be on your phone as a social duh, but also you’re here to see the baby so see it! You can’t asses the situation if you’re nervously scrolling through Snap stories to avoid people seeing you’re weird with a baby. You need to be present to connect. And, don’t take pictures of other people’s kids that’s a huge no no around parents. You think it’s so great to grab the baby and snap a pic of yourself but the parent is cringing and resenting you for using their baby as a prop and putting their kid’s image out there without consent. Other peoples babies = not props for Tinder and Bumble profile pics.
2) Expect Body Fluid
Here’s why I say expect it, if you luck out and don’t get pee, poop or vomit on you then you come out of the situation feeling GOOD. Like go buy a lottery ticket that day. Otherwise, like you guys this thing is probably going to leak on you. Don’t freak out, be cool, I just warned you this was going to happen. Smile and if you can’t say something funny for the love of God do not make a dirty joke. Don’t. Hold it in. Just smile and say “I was warned this could happen!”
1) Be Confident
Babies are animals they can tell when a human is nervous to hold them. Don’t be cocky, but demonstrate to the baby (and the mommy) when you’re holding it that it’s safe. Use two hands, support the head and move slowly. No one is in any rush and the baby just wants to enjoy your nice safe arms as he or she gets to know you. You’re close enough with her parents to be holding her, so she wants to get to know you too!
I hope this helps anyone who is about to be around any babies for the first time. My final bonus point is also a plug for the podcast I’m on. Our first episode discusses the importance of narrating to babies and I want to include in this post that that goes for YOU the non parent. You’re holding a baby and don’t know what to say (and I’m talking about non baby too, like you’re with a 3 or 4 year old) – just describe the activity to them. Say something like “I can see you are reading that book with a bear on the cover” and the kid will light up and engage. Tell the newborn in your arms that you can see the blanket they’re wrapped in is blue and that it feels soft. You are actually TEACHING in that moment and that to me is probably the coolest thing ever – you the person who was so nervous a few minutes ago is now a teacher of things and a person who quite possibly just made a baby smarter.