Baby etiquette – the 10 most awkward questions, sorted

Is it rude to exchange unwanted baby gifts? And how do you tell your mum that you want to do things your way? Our experts have the answers

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1) Should I send out birth announcements, or will it seem like I’m angling for gifts?

“The birth of a new baby is one of life’s most precious events! Celebrate the occasion by sharing your good news with friends and family. In most cases, they’re sure to want to send gifts and cards. By sending an announcement you’ll make them feel valued.”

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Brenda Campbell-Hubbard, director, Heaven Sent Creations (www.HeavenSentCreations.co.uk )

2) Is it ok to exchange an unwanted baby gift for something I’d really like?

“Yes, as long as you’re not going to upset anyone! But why not avoid this potentially embarrassing position by compiling a ‘baby gift list’. With so many good mail-order and online catalogues around, it’s easy to select the items that you really need within the comfort of your own home.”

Jo Luke, director, Bebe Amour (www.bebeamour.co.uk )

3) Should we give a present to the midwife who delivered our baby?

“A lot of midwives will be more touched by a thank you card or letter. This is very personal and special, particularly if you tell them the specific things they said or did that you found helpful. If you wish to send a gift, a box of biscuits to the labour ward is always a good idea so that everyone on the team can enjoy them. Alternatively, you could make a small donation to the labour ward.”

Sue Macdonald, Royal College of Midwives (www.rcm.org.uk )

4) How can I tell my parents that I need some space to bond with my baby and would rather they waited a few weeks before visiting us after the birth?

“I believe that honesty up front and respect of each other’s feelings are essential from day one. Do ask for a short period of time and space and you and your partner will both be very tired and coming to terms with being a family. However, acknowledge that your parents’ love for you and their desire to see the baby, is understandable and reassure them that in due course they too can have some quality time with their new grandchild.”

Lynn Chesterman, chief executive director, The Grandparents’ Association.

5) I can’t really remember what terrible things I said to my husband during labour. Should I raise it with him?

“It might be that at the time you blamed him for the pain and the suffering you were experiencing. It’d be good to ask him what he remembers you saying because you may be unduly concerned. Once you’ve clarified this, then you can talk it through if necessary. It is vital to the ongoing health of your relationship to be able to talk openly and honestly which each other. If issues were raised during the stress of labour, don’t allow them to go unaddressed.”

Christine Northam, relationship counsellor, Relate (www.relate.org.uk )

6) Is it ok to breastfeed in front of male friends and family members?

“Every mother must decide for herself where, and in front of whom, she feels comfortable breastfeeding. Follow from your own feelings about male friends and family, but really all mothers should be able to breastfeed wherever they feel comfortable doing so.”

7) My mum keeps telling me how things were done ‘in her day’. I know she’s only trying to help but I feel she’s undermining my decisions. Can I tell her this without hurting her feelings?

“Your mother may be finding it hard to adjust to the fact that her little girl is now a mother herself. Tell her that you appreciate her comments as it shows how much she cares about you both, but that things have changed a great deal since you were a child, and that when you make decisions there are factors you need to take into account that she may not be aware of. Remind her that she was a good mother, who made the right decisions for you as a child, but that you hope she will respect your new role as a mum so that your child can appreciate her as a gran.”

Lynn Chesterman, chief executive director, The Grandparents’ Association

8) My baby is sleeping through the night at only 6 weeks, though my friends aren’t having such as easy time. What should I say if they ask me how my baby is doing?

“Try not to be smug. Your good fortune may change as quickly as it came – and if it does you’ll want your friends’ sympathy and reassurance, so it’s best to give your now.”

Angela Holland, Parentline Plus (www.parentlineplus.org.uk )

9) Is it alright for me to carry on breastfeeding when I return to work?

“First, tell your employer in writing that you plan to continue to breastfeed. All employees now have the right to be given access to a private room – not a toilet – where they can pump milk and a fridge suitable for storing it in. You’re not asking for special privileges, so you shouldn’t feel embarrassed.”

Stephanie McKeon, legal advisor, Working Families (www.workingfamilies.org.uk )

10) How do I respond when a friend asks me if I think her baby is beautiful enough to be a model?

“You obviously can’t tell her the child looks ghastly. Why not tell her to send the pictures to an agency if she wishes, but remind her that it is very competitive. Our agency turns down 95% of the pictures we receive. If your friend’s determined to go ahead, advise her only to try reputable agencies that operate in her local area. Be very wary of answering an advert in the back of a newspaper; they’re often rip-off merchants.”

Elisabeth Smith, Elisabeth Smith Child Modelling Agency

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