You know when you meet a baby, and they're kind of cute in an alien way that only newborn babies are and you feel like you should hold them but you're not entirely sure what's appropriate and you want to say some words to let baby, and parents, know you're excited but, well, words escape you? Yeah, that was me. That was me until I became a mom. Hell, that was me until my first kid was 6 months old. Knowing what to say to a baby you've only just met isn't easy, people! It's not like we, as adult humans, are endowed with some kind of baby-knowledge that makes talking to the equivalent of a human sack of potatoes easy!
Luckily, it is pretty easy to talk to babies. No, really. I mean, it's not like they understand what you're saying, so in the end when you're talking to a baby you're really talking to his or her parents. As a new mom, it was the things my friends and family members said to my baby that, by proxy, made me feel loved, seen, cared for, and supported. So when you're talking to a newborn, think about the mom holding that newborn. Think about the mom who carried and birthed (or adopted!) that newborn. Think about the mom who is losing sleep because of that newborn.
In other words, if you ever find yourself face-to-face with a baby, and you're feeling like you have no idea what to say, consider the following:
"Hi, I'm [Insert Name Here] & I'm [Insert Relation Here]"
Introduce yourself! Just because the baby is, you know, a baby, and has no idea what you're actually saying, doesn't mean you have to buck social norms and bypass the whole introductory thing. After all, the baby is still meeting you for the first time, and I can promise you that you'll make that baby's parents' hearts sore when you establish your connection to that baby. A little, "Hi, my name is X and I'm your mom and/or dad's Y," will go a long, long way.
"You're So Precious!"
"Precious" is a pretty safe word to use when describing a baby. It's gender-neutral, because duh, and it doesn't really put an explicit onus on the baby's looks. You can avoid using words like "cute" or "beautiful" or "handsome," and instead just focus on the serenity that babies just naturally embody.
"I'm So Glad You're Here!"
I mean, aren't you?! And even if you're not — hey, I don't know your life or how you personally feel about babies — I can guarantee you that the baby's parents are. So join in on the celebration and let that little baby know that you're really glad to see them alive and well, at home with their parents (or in the hospital, if you're one of the select view that met the little one when they were a mere hour or a few days old), and living their best baby life.
"Is It OK If I Hold You?"
Will the baby respond? Nope. But does asking permission before holding a baby lay the groundwork for lessons regarding consent and bodily autonomy? Absolutely. And when you're asking the baby if you can hold them, you're also really, technically, asking the parents. In other words, it's a great way to ask permission from all parties involved.
"Do You Want To Go Back To Your Mom?"
Again, the baby can't tell you "yes" or "no," but this lays the groundwork for consent and also lets the mom know that you're aware that she may want the baby back, especially if the baby is crying and/or hungry.
"I'm Going To Pick You Up Now!"
Consent. Consent consent consent. You guys, it's never too early to let another human being know that they're in charge of their bodies! Babies can't give you consent, but you can absolutely talk to them as if they're, you know, actual human beings. (Hint: because they are.) And I promise that the baby's parents will appreciate you respecting their future bodily autonomy.
"Are You Letting Your Mom Sleep?"
The answer to this question will be obvious. I mean, just take a look at the bags under that poor mom's eyes. But you know why asking a baby this particular question is so important? Because it let's the mom know that you're thinking of her. She will know, in that moment, that even though you're face-to-face with a cute AF baby, you care about her and how she is adjusting to life as a mom.
"I Bet You're Keeping Dad Busy, Huh?"
Yes, bring dad into the conversation! (If there is a dad, because single moms and lesbian moms and moms with non-binary partners exist, my friends!) If the mom in your life is co-parenting with a cisgender male, chances are he's already being treated as a "secondary parent." People, that is not a thing. There is literally no such thing as a "secondary parent." There are just parents, and incorporating dad into the convo will let him, mom, and baby (even though baby doesn't understand) know that everyone involved should be shouldering the responsibilities of parenthood.
"You're Going To Do Big Things, I Can Tell"
Let that baby know, friend! Tell them all about the incredible things they're going to do! Let their parents know that you see magic in those baby eyes!
"We're Going To Go On So Many Adventures Together!"
Sure, you could consider this a promise to the baby, but it's also an incredibly kind thing to say to the baby in front of his or her parents. Why? Because their parents will know that you're in it for the long hall, my friend. They'll know that you plan on sticking around, even if parenthood makes them kind of a flake and not necessarily the most reliable friend. They'll know that you have plans, just like they have plans, and that will be so comforting at a time when they feel like their lives have been completely dismantled and reassembled.
"You Look Just Like Your Mom!"
Say this even if it isn't true. Why? Because that's what us moms want to hear, and honestly the baby has no idea what you're saying anyways so it doesn't matter if it's a bold-face lie. Give us moms this small comfort. The baby looks like us. Just say it.