I have a plea to all grandmotherly types out there who love to hold babies: Give the baby back to the mother!
Everyone loves babies. Research has even shown, with images of the brain, that people’s happy centers light up on MRI when a baby smiles at them. And it’s long been proven that skin-on-skin contact, such as holding a baby in arms, releases the love hormone oxytocin. But some people are almost obsessed with that baby-induced “high,” to the point where they won’t give the baby back to the mother, even when it’s clear the baby or the mother isn’t happy. They start shushing and bouncing, and batting the mother off, saying that everything’s OK.
And what’s that mother supposed to do? What we should be doing is taking that baby back, but as emotionally sensitive creatures that we are, we might be reluctant to hurt the other person’s feelings. Or depending on the situation, we might find it overly awkward. Or, with certain people, taking the baby back might even have the potential to cause a scene. Kudos to the mothers who just don’t care and take their baby back anyway. For the rest of us, the baby finally gets given back when the fussing turns into crying or when a diaper needs changing, but as soon as baby has quieted down, that person wants to hold the baby again. They may be relatives or neighbors or even someone you would otherwise call a close friend. And it may be an extremely uncomfortable position to be in, as you struggle within yourself as to the best response, biting your lip either way.
What bothers me about these types of people is that they are only concerned with how they feel, to the detriment of the baby’s own happiness and to the detriment of the mother’s comfort. They have no respect for the mother-baby relationship. The baby is fussing because he wants to go back to his mother. He may be hungry, or may not. It could be he just wants his mama. And the mother is looking back constantly at the baby, because they are meant to be together. At this young age, they are one.
If you want to hold the baby, make sure you know the mother well. We mothers do not appreciate people swooping in at the grocery store, church, or bank. And if she does let you hold the baby, do so only for a few minutes and then give the baby back, even if the baby seems perfectly happy. Even if the mother says it’s OK. The mother and baby need each other. They need to be together. They need to be one.