How to (Gently) Tell Someone They Can’t Hold Your Baby

For many people, meeting a newborn for the first time isn’t a complete experience unless they get to hold the baby. Cute baby hands! Sweet baby smell! Tiny baby lashes! From best friends to grandparents, from doctor’s office staff to coworkers, new parents can expect to be swamped with enthusiastic requests—or sometimes, just outstretched arms and raised eyebrows that practically squeal, “May I?”

Of course, there may be some instances where you want to reply, “No you may not.” Maybe you’re worried about your baby catching a cold or bug. Maybe you’re afraid to trust anyone other than you or your partner to handle your new bub. Maybe it’s the wrong place, or the wrong time. No matter what your reason, you’re allowed to decide who holds your child, and when. 

Still, refusing to allow someone to hold your baby can feel difficult on an inverse scale: The better you know the person, the more guilt you may feel over saying no. But you don’t have to feel pressured to let someone—even someone you love and trust—hold your baby if you’d rather they didn’t. Here are some ways to gently say no. 

“I’ll be more comfortable letting other people hold bubs once their immune system is more developed.” 

That should happen by the time your baby is around two to three months old, though you should check with your pediatrician for more concrete guidelines. Until then, your little one will be extra susceptible to viruses and other germs. Even once they are a few months old, medical experts advise taking common-sense safety precautions: ask visitors to make sure they’ve gotten the DTaP vaccine against pertussis (whooping cough), to reschedule visits if they’re feeling unwell, and to wash their hands before approaching your infant.  

“Right now we’re focused on letting our little one get used to our touch.” 

You don’t need a doctor-approved reason to decline. It’s okay to explain that you want to keep cuddles and hugs to your immediate family unit, at least for the time being. Bonding time is important, and it’s your right to set boundaries. Don’t feel pressured to promise exactly when you will be willing to hand over your baby—you’re under no obligation to can’t predict when you’ll feel comfortable. 

“Thank you for offering to hold them, but I’m not ready to let go right now.” 

If you want to say no simply because you’re enjoying holding your baby at the moment, that’s perfectly valid. Even if it’s very clear the other person is requesting to hold the baby, rather than offering to take the little one off your hands for a bit—in other words, it’s a favor for them, not a favor for you—framing it this way may help soften the blow. 

“They’re so little, we’re only letting adults hold them for now.” 

Your older children, nieces, nephews, cousins, or neighbors might also request a little hug time with you newborn. And while their enthusiasm might be quite welcome, you might also worry they don’t have the experience or control to safely hold your infant. When it comes to your baby’s siblings, you know best which limits to set when it comes to holding and snuggling their new little brother or sister. As for other children, let them know it’s not personal: They didn’t do anything wrong, they’re not being punished, but as the baby’s parents you’ve made a rule, and you’re going to stick with it.