An Overview of Strangers’ Reactions to Babies by Demographic

Take a baby into public and you're sure to draw attention. Here's an overview of what you can expect based on who you run into.

I take my 14 month old out quite often—the grocery store, the bank, the mall, the park, the café; you name it, I’ve brought her there. She’s basically my accessory.

As her mother, I naturally expect the world to stop and gaze at my beautiful creation the second we hit the pavement, and sure, many passersby do make comments. Others don’t, and that’s okay too, but lately I’ve noticed a pattern emerging. It appears that when it comes to baby ogling, demographics are pretty important, and yes, age and gender DO matter. There are clearly certain types of people who are more likely than others to notice, comment on, or ‘ooh and ahh’ over my baby daughter.

Ladies and gentlemen, prepare yourselves for some of the best generalizing you’ll find on the web today. Now, this is strictly observation, and by no means scientific. Plus, I’m mostly referring strangers on the street; however, the same notion typically does translate to friends and relatives.

So without further adieu, here it is: An Overview of Strangers’ Reactions to My Baby (in order of interest).

Middle-Aged Women: This group is BY FAR my daughter’s biggest fans. Many of them are grandmothers or have their own kids who are “all grown up.” How do I know? They tell me.

Typical comments: “The hair!” “The eyes!” “Oh, she’s beautiful!” “All they need at this age is love.” “How old?” “What’s her name?” “Love that hat! Did somebody knit that for her?” “My son had hair JUST like that!”

Late Adulthood Men: I think men take longer to find their soft spots, but once they do, they sure like to spread the warmth around. Often they are grandfathers. How do I know? They tell me.

Typical comments: “Hey there, cutie!” “Peekabo!” “Just you wait a few yeehs, you’ll have a great helpa.” (said the Long Island native at Shop Rite).

Teenaged and College-Aged Girls: It must be a law of physics or something, because they are almost always in groups of two, three or more. Usually, they are busy chatting or texting, and there will be a slightly awkward silence before the gushing starts.

Typical comments: “Awww!” “Omg, look!” “She’s like, so adorable.” “I wonder what she’ll look like as a teenager.”

School-Aged, Preschool, and Toddler Girls: Little girls love seeing my baby; I think it’s in their nature to take to something that resembles their dolls.

Typical comments: “Bey-bie!” “Hi, ba-bie!!!!”

Young/New Moms: Typically speaking, I’m the one who gets a knowing glance from these women, not my baby. They may glimpse at her and smile, but it’s more about the motherly camaraderie, which I think is a beautiful thing.

Typical comments: “Look Aiden, another baby!”

Young/New Dads: New dads are pretty open to waving or smiling at babies or young children. Based solely on my observations, this newly inherited trait disappears for a while, and then returns in late adulthood. See above.

Typical comments: None, really; just a smile and a wave.

“In the thick of it” Moms: Of course these women appreciate a cute baby when they see one, but honestly, they are too busy to care. Usually, they’ll have two or three school-aged kids in tow, and they are just trying to survive the outing.

Typical comments: Perhaps a quick, “Oh, cute!” But more likely if anything, “Honey, watch out for the baby!”

In the thick of it” Dads: See above. But remove the “Oh, cute!” comment.

School-Aged, Preschool, and Toddler Boys: It’s strange, but true. They don’t seem nearly as interested as the little girls.

Typical comments: Usually nothing.

Teenage/CollegeAged Boys: Nothing. Nada.

Typical comments: Blank stares and crickets.

Young(ish) Post-College-Aged Couples (perhaps married or engaged): The females will either look at my baby longingly and smile, or give a semi-interested look. The males will look frightened. It’s the same, by the way, if they are alone or together.

So what can we conclude from this informal “study”? Women like babies more than men? Older people like babies more than younger people? Older women like babies more than teenage boys? If what I’m suggesting is true, is this due to biology or socialization? This is an argument that scholars have been debating for centuries.

Scholars. Hmm. I wonder what they’d have to say about my baby…