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Is It Ever OK To Touch a Stranger's Baby?

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Do parents mind if a stranger interacts with their baby like touch his cheeks and compliment on the baby's cuteness? originally appeared on Quora - the knowledge sharing network where compelling questions are answered by people with unique insights.

Answer by Ambra Benjamin, Engineering Recruiter, Writer, Mom, on Quora:

Do I mind if people admire and compliment my baby? That's totally fine. Touch, though? No no no. Do you walk up to complete adult strangers and randomly hold their hands? Brush their cheeks? Caress their heads? Then why would anyone think it's okay to do so to a baby you don't know and who doesn't belong to you?

I'm pregnant with my third baby, and one of the things I'm dreading the most is all the stealth fighter moves and karate chops I'm going to need to pull out to keep strangers' germy hands off my baby. There is a boundary there that so many people don't seem to realize and it often creates a very adversarial relationship between me and the general public when I'm out with an infant.

There's a particular nuance here because my kids are African American and tend to have lots of thick, curly hair when they're babies so the number one thing people try to do is rub my babies' heads or touch their hair. There is this insatiable urge, and when people move in for the touch, it creates lots of really awkward encounters where I have to block someone mid-touch, and they have this moment of rightful embarrassment. A few times people have even gotten offended that asked them not to touch. Culturally this is a no no. Black people joke at length (even though it's not funny) about growing up and having people want to touch our hair even into adulthood. People are not exhibits. They are humans.

I blame Angelina Jolie and others for widely popularizing the beautiful black baby as an accessory. No knock against her and the love she has for her adopted children, but due to some Hollywood trends and too many "feed the children commercials," a lot of people have become enamored with the "quintessential black baby." When I used to go out with my infant daughter (baby number two) people would come up and tell me how much they wanted to adopt a black baby. These are the words they'd say. "I've always wanted to adopt a black baby." That is seriously the oddest thing to say to a complete stranger.

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