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baby Announcements

Etiquette may not be at the forefront of the parents’ minds when a baby is on its way but births and christenings are rites of passage, which have accrued traditions in British culture. There are established guidelines and contemporary considerations relating to announcing births, presents and ceremonies, about which it is helpful to be informed, although personal style will always play a major role when it comes to the choices of any given family.

Traditionally, it is the father’s responsibility to spread the good news, but a grandparent or other relation often shares the duty. Immediate family and close friends should be informed as soon as possible by telephone; it is sensible to prepare a list in advance of those nearest and dearest that require a phone call.

Other family and friends can then be contacted and it is customary to use other media – for example, text message, email – to spread the word. It is essential that the most important people have learnt of the news in person before it is announced on social media sites.

Cards, sometimes complete with a coloured ribbon (or a photograph), may be sent out at a slightly later stage, with details such as the baby’s weight, if desired. Often, this may double up as a thank-you card if a present has been received.

If there are complications, the announcement may be delayed until the health or wellbeing of the mother and baby are known.

Newspaper Announcements
Birth announcements in the paper are traditionally very simple and succinct. Announcements are usually confined to the broadsheets – effectively The Times and Daily Telegraph, though fewer people now do both – or, if appropriate, a local newspaper.

A traditional announcement would read: Debrett – On 20th August to John and Charlotte (née Berkeley), a daughter, Caroline Jane.

Unmarried couples will use both parents’ first name(s) and surname. For example: Maddox – On 20th August to Richard Maddox and Ilsa Curzon, a daughter, Alice Louise.

Single parents may use only one parent’s name. For example: Curzon – On 20th August to Ilsa, a daughter, Lucy Claire.

If it is not a first child the sibling may be named (for example, ‘a sister for Joanna’) and occasionally the hospital (certain fashionable private London hospitals include the announcements in their package and always name themselves). Additions such as ‘much loved’ or thanks to the medical team are less traditional but may be included and may reflect particular circumstances.

Adoption Cards
It used to be rare to announce the adoption of a child but is now much less so. Some parents choose to send out cards and the traditional wording would read:

Mr and Mrs Debrett wish to announce the arrival of Thomas Edward into their lives.
A less formal version might be:

John and Charlotte Debrett are thrilled to announce the homecoming of their son Thomas Edward.

After the birth
After the birth

Visiting in Hospital
Visiting mothers and babies in hospital has become confined to close family and friends, as time spent there is so much shorter than it used to be. It is best to check before going to see someone and even before sending flowers, as these may not arrive in time or be permitted.

If visiting, it is usual to take a small baby present, such as clothing or a soft toy. Be aware that the mother may be exhausted and that the baby may need to be fed or changed and that its needs are paramount. Visits must be kept short.

Keeping Track and Thanking
New mothers may want to have some cards ready and even stamped addressed envelopes to hand so as to send thanks for flowers and presents before going home or as soon as they get home. This can be a good idea as life can become very hectic so it is sensible to be well prepared.

Alternatively, they may want to keep track of presents by making lists, as it is easy to forget in the overwhelming first few weeks at home.

It is not necessary to respond to every card immediately. It is polite, however, to acknowledge them in due course either by sending announcement cards (as discussed above), or a text message or email.

Cards to new parents may be addressed to the mother or both parents.

Visiting at Home
Viewing new babies is a great pleasure for many friends and relations but may be exhausting for the new mother, so tact and consideration are needed. Keep visits brief and uncomplicated and do not take offence if asked to postpone. Never just drop in; always arrange a time and be punctual. The baby may need to be fed during the visit or the mother may not wish to wake the baby, so visitors should not be too demanding. This is an occasion when offers of help – for example making tea or bringing some food – will really be appreciated.

A small present will be welcome but there is no need to overdo it. If you wish to be very generous then the baby’s first Christmas or first birthday may be a better time, when the baby is no longer being overwhelmed with soft toys. It can also be a good idea to take along a small present for a toddler or older sibling.

Baby Showers
Baby showers, which usually take place before the baby is born, are an American rather than a British tradition. If invited to one then the idea is to provide something practical; gender-neutral colours are best. The presents may be opened there and then and elaborate gift-wrapping is part of the shower culture.

It can be sensible when giving clothing to size up (so choose for around six months) and consider the season in which the baby will be wearing it. Very considerate givers will also enclose a gift receipt so that the present may be exchanged if it does not fit. Never take offence if you do not see the baby wearing the cardigan you knitted or the designer outfit on which you spent a fortune.

Some choose to give a present to the mother at the baby shower, rather than the unborn baby, and wait until the baby has safely arrived before giving a present.

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