When out and about now, I often carry Ira facing out (in a ring sling). I never really did that with Leigh. She was quite easily overstimulated, and really seemed to need the protection of being able to tuck her head up against us, so I almost always carried her tummy-to-tummy. In contrast, Ira is quite happy facing out or in, and since we’re trying to gently push him into something like a nap schedule, carrying him facing out can be a good way to keep him happily awake when needed.

Over the last week or so, I’ve noticed that this means many more people talk to me about the baby, or make googley eyes at him, or smile in that way that only a baby can make you smile. At 3 1/2 months he often will give them a good smile back. At a coffeeshop I go to sometimes, dads in particular have started several conversations. One guy opened up about his 8-year-old who lives in another state. Another dad and I compared notes about pacifiers. Sometimes someone will even touch the baby (gasp!). Sometimes people give me advice I don’t really want (often about how hot/cold he is or whether or not he’s really OK in that carrier).

Over the years I’ve been privy several conversations among parents bemoaning the slew of unsolicited advice that comes your way once you’re out and about with a baby, or the horrors of old ladies coming up and pinching your baby’s cheeks, or annoyance at the rubberneckers always trying to get a peek in the stroller. While I sort of understand the annoyance, I actually love (most*) such interactions. I see them as the last shred of our instinct to communally care for our young. When strangers interact with Ira, I see a piece of what it means to be human. I feel a little less like I’m on a tiny island containing only my small family, and more like our baby is part of the whole world.

* I do have my limits, however. The random drunk guy yelling at me that my 6 week old was hungry as he cried while I tried to get set up to nurse in a crowded subway station really ticked me off.