Child etiquette expert Cindy Post Senning (Emily Post’s great-granddaughter) helps mothers mind their p’s and q’s—even when they’d rather be catching some z’s.
Q. New babies get lots of gifts, but new moms have zero free time. Is it acceptable to send thank-you notes by email?
A. "There’s nothing wrong with an emailed ‘thank you,’ but make it a little more formal than usual—include a salutation, and watch your p’s and q’s. Also, consider the person you’re contacting. If your grandmother is on the computer once a month, she should get a handwritten note."
Q. While we’re on the subject of gifts, can you return one that really isn’t your style?
A. "Use your judgment! If you got three of the same outfit, it’s fine to exchange two for something else. But if you got something that’s not quite your taste from Great Aunt June and she’s really excited to see your baby in it, it’s a nice idea to keep it and dress your little one in it when you go to visit."
Q. When guests visit, how do you politely ask them to leave when the baby is ready for a nap?
A. "Simply explain it’s time for baby’s nap, and that you’re trying to establish a routine for her. You can always invite them to return later."
Q. What should you do if someone shows up at your home with a cold? How can you ask them to keep their distance without sounding rude—or like a total germaphobe?
A. "This is a classic question that I hear from new parents all the time. It’s perfectly acceptable to ask someone who’s under the weather not to handle the baby. Just explain that you’re nervous about your little one getting sick; you could also suggest a time when she can come back for another visit and a cuddle. That mitigates any awkwardness and makes it clear that you still want them around."
Q. Is it weird to ask guests to remove their shoes before they walk into the home or nursery?
A. "Absolutely not. I like to have a little rack or place designated especially for shoes."
Q. How can you be a good host when you haven’t had time to shower, much less go shopping, in a week?
A. "This is one time when you can get away with not providing refreshments for your guests! They came to see the baby, not have a feast."