Get the latest from TODAY
New parents know how hard it can be keeping strangers’ dirty paws off their infants. It seems like every person in the grocery store or bank needs to grab your baby’s hand or rub her head. Enter the latest diversionary technique: “NO TOUCHING” signs that parents have been placing on the car seats and strollers to ward off the unwanted handling of their children. But the signs have sparked some debate.
"I feel like there is no one answer that is correct," Dr. Deborah Gilboa, a parenting expert, told TODAY. "If your child is medically fragile then it is a smart idea. If your child is not medically fragile then it is not necessary. As a parent you are welcome to do what you want at your own comfort level."
Several months ago the Facebook mothering community Breastfeeding Mama Talk posted a picture of a car seat with a sign that said “NO TOUCHING. Your germs at too BIG for me,” and asked its followers if they would use the signs. The response was overwhelming.
“Don’t touch other people or their children. It’s creepy. Don’t be creepy,” Heather from Breastfeeding Mama Talk wrote, starting the debate.
Soon others chimed in.
“It’s not even just about the germs, there’s the whole respect for other people’s space,” Katelyn McClain shared on Facebook, while Jennifer L. Simmons agreed.
“Yes!!!! I HATE when someone walks up to my 11-month-old and touches her. Just cause she’s a child does not mean it’s OK. I’ve flat told people to back the hell off, lol. Just cause she’s waving and curious does not mean it’s OK to touch.”
Gilboa said for some parents, using a sign to prevent strangers from touching a baby might seem easier than a confrontation.
"The concern from having a total stranger touch your baby goes way beyond whether or not washed their hands after they touched their nose," she explained. "Everyone has boundaries and you can't just touch people."
A preemie mom on the Facebook thread felt grateful for the “no touching” sign that she received at the hospital, which helps protect her infant.
“It works! And I keep a cover on him,” April Lewis explained, adding if anyone still tried touching her son they’d get an earful from her.
Becca Birdsall certainly understands wanting to protect her almost 1-month old daughter, Adelyn, from germs. While the infant hasn't spent a lot of time in public, Birdsall has established firm rules.
"Family and friends, I’ve said yes to them and they’ve always washed their hands before picking her up or touching any part of her. So far it’s been a nonissue," Birdsall, 35, of Avella, Pennsylvania, told TODAY via email. "I don’t want strangers touching her, especially since we’re entering the cold and flu season and she’s too young for immunizations."
Birdsall doesn't plan to use a sign, but she knows she'll have to address strangers trying to touch Adelyn.
"If a stranger asked, I’d have to say 'No' but they’re welcome to look at her and admire her,'" she explains. "I plan to be polite yet stern. If someone was to try to touch her without asking, that may be a bit more difficult. I wouldn’t use a sign; it’s a tad passive."
Some on the Breastfeeding Mama Talk thread thought the signs weren't needed because they believe children are coddled too much.
“Children need germs, their bodies need to fight off sickness,” Amber Hardy wrote on Facebook.
Anzie Rose agreed:
“I have had 4 big healthy boys, all have been bounced around people and played on the floor since they came out and I wouldn’t change I think,” she wrote. “People are ridiculous with babies now. Unless your baby is a preemie or somehow sick, get that kid in some dirt.”
Gilboa agreed that parents do not need to be so germaphobic.
"Kids who are exposed to more germs in the first year of life have stronger immune systems," she said. "But they don't have to get germs from a total stranger."
This story was originally published in October 2018.