How to React to an Ugly Baby

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While all babies are considered to be beautiful to their parents who are biologically predisposed to such a belief, the general populace may not find each and every baby to be quite so gorgeous as the besotted parents seem to believe. In fact, it takes many newborn babies several weeks to grow out of that “fresh from the womb” smashed-up appearance, which can make fawning over a friend's or family member’s new baby a little tough on your desire to give honest praise.

However, if you’ve been presented with a baby that is not cute, avoid the desire to express how much like a wrinkly old man the baby looks and take a more subtle, polite approach instead.


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    Before visiting anyone with a new baby, prepare yourself for the worst. What one mom finds adorable, you may find distasteful or even horrifying. If you brace yourself for the possibility the baby could be on the ugly side, you may not have an extreme reaction, revealing your true feelings and hurting mom’s. If you're someone who really isn't into babies and all that comes with breeding, you'll need to dig even deeper in your bag of compassionate reactions. Suspend your usual cynicism or fears about babies and put on a brave face. In particular, pull out your manners above all because this is about to be a case of being polite.
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    Preview photos from Facebook or the baby announcement before meeting the child. Luckily for you, if the parents love sharing their baby photos online, this is one excellent and very private way to prepare yourself for the initial meeting. Prior peeking at the photos of the newborn will let you know what the baby looks like before you meet him or her. That way, you're better prepared when the parents want you to meet the baby. In fact, there may even be some improvements in the time between seeing the online images and the baby in the flesh.
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    Time your visit thoughtfully. Delay is a good thing. Let the new parents know that you don't wish to crowd them out and want them to have their personal bonding time. Let them know you'll come by in about a week to see the new addition to their family. This gives some time for the baby's features to straighten out a bit. It also gives mom and dad more time to be used to handling their new baby, which gives you lots of excuses to ask about the caring process rather than the birth itself (details of which can be really gruesome to have to listen to and risk coloring your impressions of the baby negatively).
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    Think of three positive qualities you could say about the infant. If push comes to shove and you need material fast, have three comments on hand that can be rolled off the tongue before you consider the praising part closed. However, choose your words wisely. In the classic, “ugly baby” Seinfeld episode, the parent’s visiting-single-doctor-friend refers to his friends' baby as “breathtaking”--much to the befuddlement of Elaine...and then, much to the absolute horror of Elaine, in another scene, refers to Elaine as “breathtaking” too! In a feeble attempt to avoid saying that the baby is unattractive, Jerry Seinfeld and his motley crew end up saying that the baby is "snuggly", which has become a pop culture code word for “ugly.” Instead of making a similar faux pas, think in advance of what you'll say. Choose words like, "sweet", "cuddly", "lovable" or "soft" when referring to a baby.
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    Think of indirect compliments that can be said with a genuine underpinning. Direct compliments may stick in your throat but there are plenty of polite and considerate ways around this. Here are just some of them:
    • Talk about how much hair he or she has (or lack thereof) or the size of his or her feet and hands.
    • Suggest that you're positive the baby is trying to smile already and that it's clear he or she has a "very happy demeanor"––no parent is going to be put off by having a happy baby!
    • Single out the one feature that is nice to behold. It might be the eyes, or the tiny fingers or the way the baby's toes curl up. This works whether you're totally clueless about babies or well-versed in having your own because it shows that you're noticing something about the baby that matters to you.
    • Another great way around focusing on the ugly stick is to comment on the baby's health. Simply say with great heartiness: "Wow, you've one healthy looking baby there!", or something along similar lines. Again, it'd be an odd parent who didn't glow at the thought of having a healthy bub.
    • Go all ga ga and just make baby noises. Say something like "Aw, goo, who's a liddle baby den, coochy coochy coo, look at you!" Total nonsense baby talk can maneuver you right around the issue of ugliness. And it can alleviate your guilt knowing you look like a complete idiot doing baby talk, thereby deflecting the awkward moment of lack of praise into a moment of self-deprecating behavior.
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    Focus on the parents. One of the best ways to avoid having to make comments about the baby is to ask about the parents, especially mom. Maintain eye contact with the parents and ask how mom is feeling, how having a baby has changed their lives and what they like most about being new parents. Often parents are so used to visitors talking about the baby, a discussion about how they are feeling may be welcomed and a good diversion from having to comment on the child. Avoid asking questions such as requesting a detailed description of the delivery or general comments or questions about breastfeeding. Stick to light, run-of-the-mill questions like how much sleep mom and dad are getting and the overall impact of being a new parent has on their life.
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    Keep comments about the baby short and sweet. Stick to your main comments you rehearsed before the meeting and then focus on other topics. If you start to talk excessively about the baby you could paint yourself into a corner and end up saying something you didn’t want to say in the first place. If mom keeps taking the conversation back to the baby, buckle in and let her do all the talking. Nod, smile and agree. Provide general responses to questions such as, “Do you think she is the most adorable baby in the world?” Your response could be, “Yes, she is a wonderful child.”
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    Keep quiet after your compliment or simple praise comments. Nothing more needs to be said about the matter. You can always offer to hold the baby if it's appropriate and through your awed silence, appear to be taken in by the specialness of the moment.
    • There is never a requirement to gush. If you find yourself falling into that trap, immediately stop yourself. Gushing is pointless and soon tips into the realm of insincerity.


  • Always find other focal points in the room or your surroundings other than the baby’s appearance. If you're at the parent’s home, compliment the nursery or the child’s new clothing or toys.
  • Remember how excited the parents are to show you their new baby. Focus on their excitement and the miracle of life instead of whether the baby is cute or not.
  • Be careful commenting only on the baby's clothing. Parents will smell something fishy.
  • Get the new baby a toy or a gift for the mom to show that you care.


  • Avoid using any words that suggest the baby is old. Sure, the baby probably looks as wrinkled as a prune, suggestive of old men and women, but that's not something the parents of a newborn want to hear. And whatever you do, leave out all comparisons to Yoda, or any other wrinkly object.
  • Never tell the baby’s parents you don’t think the child is cute. Aside from the fact that it is mean and hurtful, remember it’s only a baby. Plus, you never know––Brad Pitt or Jennifer Aniston could have been one ugly baby.
  • If you fail to reign in your rudeness and something about the baby looking ugly, funny or old does slip out, you may lose a friend. Mothers of newborns tend to be very protective and touchy about anything negative being said about their labor of love.

Things You'll Need

  • Facebook
  • Rehearsed compliments
  • Distractions to talk about

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