We’ve all been there.
Your friend/sister/cousin/workmate/distant-relative/total stranger has had a baby and you need to make an appearance and/or are desperately dying for a newborn baby fix.
But regardless of your level of enthusiasm, you also know your first move is fraught with danger. You know it’s likely you will offend the parents in some way by contravening the unspoken rules they’ve randomly and selfishly created to protect their tiny cherub. The stakes are high.
If you're a politician, you're indifferent to the risk. In an attempt to humanise yourself, you tear the baby away from its rightful owners, slobber on it, or foist it in the air Lion King-style.
But if you don't have Trump-esque chutzpah, you will care very much about whether you'll ever be allowed near that baby again.
So here's our Rules for Holding a Baby That's Not Yours.
1. Do not force yourself on the baby.
We know, it's not easy. Babies insist on being so goddamn cute and snuggly, with fat rolls and fat cheeks, and they smell soooo gooood...but I digress.
As we were saying, control yourself. It's one of life's most unfair rules, but you don't have a right to show affection to every child on the street.
2. Babies have body language: read it.
So, the baby isn't responding as you anticipated it might. It doesn't seem to be enjoying your affection. How can you tell this?
Because it is screaming.
But, leading to that, there might have been some subtle clues that indicate the baby isn't on the same page as you. Reaching for a parent, turning its head away, or going red in the face and holding its breath, for example.
This is a great opportunity to be the adult in the situation and not take things personally. Seize it. Give the baby back.
How do you tell someone to stop kissing your baby? It’s the group therapy that nightmares are made of.
3. Do not exploit a baby to make yourself look better.
Babies bring joy to the world (when they're not crying or demanding attention, because that sh*t's annoying), so it's natural to want to take a selfie with one when you're holding it. We all know nothing's worth doing if it's not on social media, but we urge you to exercise caution here.
It's not enough to ask the baby if they consent to your publication of the photo, but you also need to ask the parents.
We understand: you want to look like you're a loving, caring individual, and project the image of you being an excellent parental-type, but, very sadly, the situation is not about you.
Unless the parents tell you it's ok, then go for it.
4. The baby is not there for your entertainment.
Don't try to make the baby laugh if it's crying. If the baby doesn't giggle at a terrible joke you've made, as it should out of politeness, don't blame the baby by saying, "Tough crowd." Trust us, everyone will take the baby's side and you'll just look like a douchebag.
5. Do not kiss the baby.
If you don't accept any of the above rules, you may not understand this one, but try. It's about physical boundaries between adults and kids. Many parents don't like their child being kissed in a way that could transfer your germ-ridden saliva to their angels. This isn't just a whim of theirs: it's about science-y stuff like bacteria and disease.
You may not agree, but this is not the time to go all Dr Karl on the parents as though you understand anything about immunology. No matter how tempting that baby is, make the effort to restrain yourself. We suggest kissing them on top of the head if you absolutely can't just be satisfied by giving the tiny infant a bear hug and taking a long sniff of their newborn-smell.
Baby not yours? Respect its 'rents, and go home and think about how lucky you are to be able to walk away from what has by now undoubtedly turned into a miniature demon that desperately needs a nap.