Newport Manners & Etiquette: Making Way for Baby

Wednesday, June 18, 2014


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Today's baby etiquette for new parents, in-laws, and the baby registry. What is the funeral etiquette for thank-you notes? All questions to Didi Lorillard this week at

What to say, and not say, to someone who's pregnant

Is there etiquette for what to say to a pregnant woman? People say the strangest things to my seven month pregnant wife. She doesn't mind when they ask to touch her belly, but massaging it with both hands is not cool. Then there is the negative message in unwanted advice and childbirth horror stories. Or strangers saying, "I know it's a boy," when we know it's a girl. Where is the line drawn for what is being too intimate with a pregnant lady?  Tyler, Boston

Never touch her belly without asking. Two hands are one too many. Ask, "How far along are you?" instead of "When are you due?" Never ask about a 'due date,' instead ask about the timeframe rather than a specific date arbitrarily chosen by her doctor. When asked, "How far along are you?" there is less to explain, whether the baby comes early or late. 

Don't ever say that a pregnant lady looks like she's having twins, or ready to pop. Never share a negative birthing story with a pregnant woman. Instead say, "Make sure you hydrate and drink a lot of water so you don't get cramps." Of course, you would never ever share, "Having a baby is the most painful thing that ever happened to me," because that is not helpful.  

When someone says something infuriatingly negative, put yourself in a frame of mind where only positive messages about child birthing proliferate. Wish a pregnant couple a peaceful pregnancy and a gentle birth. Stop someone in their tracks, who begins a negative story. Be honest and say, "Let's change the subject." Scientists call it the Pygmalion Effect. Protect yourself, your wife and baby from any negativity, by staying in a positive frame of mind, and never obsessing on the "what ifs." Keep positive pregnancy and birthing affirmations in your heads and don't let the silly pessimists annoy you. ~Didi

When in-laws are too curious about baby

My widowed mother-in-law lives in Florida and periodically sends me too-long emails filled with advice about what I should be reading and eating during my pregnancy. She wants feedback and updates. Did I tell you she is a doctor? It's exhausting trying to please her by addressing every bulleted issue in her missives, while keeping up with my fast-paced job, and Type-A husband. How do I politely let her know that I appreciate the attention, but she has to trust that we are doing the best we can to have a happy, healthy baby?  A.T., Seattle

At least your MIL doesn't live next door. It sounds as though she feels left out of her grandchild's birth and anxious to know all. Email her to say, "John and I are following our doctor's orders and reading up on how to be good parents and have a happy and healthy baby. We greatly appreciate all words of wisdom and affection, but as we approach the birth of our first child, we hope you'll understand that we cannot address all of your valid concerns. Between our jobs and preparing the house for the arrival of our baby, we are immersed in daily routines. When we emerge from our cocoon, we hope you will come for a visit. John joins me in sending lots of love, Annie."

You want your MIL to understand that your primary responsibility is taking care of yourself, your baby and your husband. That you appreciate her, but not at this time.  She wants to feel needed, so let her know you both hope she'll come and help out after you've settled in with the baby at home.  ~Didi

Do I have to send a gift from the baby registry

The wife of our grandson had me invited to her baby shower in another state, but I am not able to attend. I had planned on giving the baby a family heirloom (a handsome silver loving cup), but my daughter-in-law says I have to send a present from the baby's registry at one of those big box stores. Has etiquette changed that much that we don't hand down family heirlooms? Would it be poor etiquette to send this nice piece of antique silver instead?  E.P., Concord, MA

New parents are understandably overwhelmed by the amount of paraphernalia that books and magazines push and recommend for new babies. Many of these baby registry gifts such as carseats, highchairs, cribs, monitors, and safety gates are needed to keep the baby from harm. Other items on the baby registry are articles of clothing, a diaper bag, unguents, burp cloths and toys are added attractions. If the new parents are not rich and you have the funds, send something they need that is listed on their baby registry. Then when the baby is born, or as a Christening present, send the family heirloom. Of course, if you would rather only give a marvelous family heirloom, it will be greatly appreciated over time.  ~Didi

Who sends the thank-yous after the funeral

A friend's son recently died in a tragic accident. Flowers and memorial gifts were sent by friends of his grandfather. (The parents do not know these folks.) Who writes the thank-you notes? The parents or the grandfather?  K.E., Providence

The parents, or someone representing them, sends the acknowledgments. There is NOTHING worse than the death of a child. Quite frankly, in my opinion, nobody should have to write thank-you notes in this situation; nobody will fault your family for not having received an acknowledgement (thank-you note).  

In a perfect world, the next of kin has a simple acknowledgment card printed for family members to share in order to divide up the sending of thank-you notes. Better stationery stores will have boxed cards you can also share with other family member "to get the job done." Just add a short personal note (one sentence) specifically thanking the person for flowers, a check, cheesecake, whatever. To have an acknowledgement printed up, center these lines and use the name of the deceased:

                                                                                              The family of 
                                                                                      Charles George Wilson
                                                                              deeply  appreciates and gratefully 
                                                                               acknowledges your kind expression
                                                                                                of sympathy

Ask the grandfather if he wishes acknowledgement cards to send to his friends along with a list of gifts received from them. Depending upon his state of mind or health, he may or may not be able to do this. For many survivors sending acknowledgement is part of their grieving process.  ~Didi

Do you have a Question for Didi? Visit her at, where Didi researches etiquette and all matters of manners for her book,"Newport Etiquette." If your Question is used, we can withhold your name and/or address. Do explore Didi's earlier columns by typing Didi Lorillard in the upper righthand corner of this page. Or scroll way, way down below.



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