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Etiquette for Congratulating a Future Parent

by Lucie Westminster, studioD

When you find out your friend or loved one is expecting, it's big news. Whether you get the word in person, through a phone call, or via a baby announcement, you may wonder how to appropriately offer your congratulations. By following a few simple etiquette rules, you can extend your best wishes without overstepping any boundaries.


No matter what you may be thinking, exhibit a happy reaction to the prospective parents when they share their wonderful news. This isn't the time to express concerns you have about the impending addition to the family. While your financial or housing questions may be valid, use this time to simply share your happiness and joy at the miraculous occasion. Smile and listen intently as the parents-to-be tell you about the due date, how they found out they were expecting, and plans for baby showers or house renovations.


With the excitement you likely feel about the upcoming baby, don't lose sight of the personal boundaries of the expecting couple. Keep questions appropriate and not too personal. Queries like "When are you due?" or "Do you know the gender?" are fine. Intrusive questions like "How can you afford another baby?" or "How much weight do you think you will gain?" are not. Even if it is your best friend telling you the news, digging for personal information should be avoided at this time. Allow expectant parents to sort out their own concerns and offer your help and support if they request it. The focus at this congratulatory time should be on the happy news, not on putting doubt and concern into the parents' heads.


Even though the expecting mother may appear tired due to pregnancy, avoid telling her this. Nobody cares to hear how the dark circles under her eyes are more evident than before pregnancy. In addition, even though you may feel that you are the expert in all things pregnancy-related, refrain from giving advice on pregnancy, diet and routine unless you are asked for it. Tell your friend you are always there for her to offer wisdom and experience, but only if she wishes to hear your own pregnancy stories. The decisions of pregnancy and child-rearing are individual choices and should be left up to the expectant parents.


While not required, it is a nice gesture to give a congratulatory gift to the new parents. If you prefer to wait until the baby shower, that is acceptable, but a small acknowledgment gift is always appreciated. You might purchase a book that explains changes the mother will experience during her pregnancy, like "The Pregnancy Book: Month-by-Month, Everything You Need to Know From America's Baby Experts" by pediatrician William Sears and Martha Sears RN. An additional gift idea that focuses on the parents is a gift certificate to their favorite restaurant for one last night out together before the baby arrives. If you prefer not to spend money on a gift, write a short note or send a card to the expecting parents expressing your excitement.


About the Author

Based in Texas, Lucie Westminster has been a writer and researcher since 1975. Her work has been published in journals such as "Psychological Reports" and "Journal of Verbal Learning and Verbal Behavior." Westminster's interests include developmental psychology, children, pets and crafting. She holds a Ph.D. in psychology from Miami University.

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