Hi, Mamas! My name is Andrea Lavinthal and I live in Brooklyn with my 11-month-old son, Saxon (my mom tells people his name came from the Bible because “it sounds better than telling them you found it on the Internet”) and Saxon’s dad, Justin. I’m the Style and Beauty Director at PEOPLE and my hobbies include tweeting about reality television shows and trying to get through the stack of books on my night table before Saxon graduates high school. Today, I’m here to talk about mouth kissing my baby.
Ew. That was my reaction when one of my best friends texted me that she regularly “makes out” with her son, who was around six months at the time.
But instead of telling her what I really thought, I just replied “lol” because true friends don’t judge. At least not over text. Plus, at the time, she was a mom and I wasn’t, so it didn’t seem right for me to tell her where to put her lips, even if I thought her choice in a make out partner was more inappropriate than the lacrosse player she dated in college whose IQ was the same as his BMI. (That ass, though…)
She apparently took my lol as a cue to give me more details. “He’s so delicious that I can’t help it, I practically suck on his mouth,” she gushed unapologetically while I silently wondered if my friend had lost her damn mind.
Fast forward seven years, and I now have my own son. A son I find so adorable and irresistible that I can’t help but — you guessed it — kiss him on the mouth. That’s right. My name is Andrea and I’m a baby-mouth-kisser. (I should probably clarify that I only kiss my baby’s mouth.)
My favorite kisses are the big wet ones he plants on me when I’m not expecting it.
Unlike my friend, the make out mom, I don’t advertise this — and certainly not to my non-mom friends. Which is unusual for me, since I’m a chronic oversharer. Seriously, if you ask me how my weekend was, I’ll end up telling you what medication I’m on and the date of my last period. So for me to withhold this from people means clearly, I’m not entirely comfortable with how affectionate I am with my son.
But why? For starters, it’s a controversial topic. When Hilary Duff posted a photo of her kissing her four-year-old son, Luca, on the lips, the Internet went insane with people commenting that it’s “not healthy” and “confusing” for him. The same debate reignited when Victoria Beckham was called “disgusting” after she shared a pic of her and her then five-year-old daughter, Harper, giving each other a kiss on the mouth.
Then there’s my own internal debate. I didn’t grow up in a lip-kissing family. (Side note: Those families also tend to be naked families and we are definitely not a naked family. In fact, the one time I took a bath with Saxon, I wore a bikini. But that’s another post for another time.) If I’m being really honest — which is the worst thing you can be on the Internet, but here goes nothing — I was opposed to kissing one’s own child on the mouth even after I had my own baby. Like a lot of people, I just thought it was a little strange and maybe even a little gross.
So how did I go from that to being someone who likes when my baby sticks his slimy little tongue in my mouth? It didn’t happen right away. For the first six months, I directed my kisses on the more typical cheeks/chin/eyes/nose/head regions. Then one day I was smooching his cheeks, he turned his face, and my lips landed on his. Instead of pulling away, I went with it, drool and all. It was a level of intimacy that I hadn’t felt until that moment. It was similar to the physical connection I got from breastfeeding, only without any of the intense pain and frustration that came with it. There was no going back and now I kiss him on the lips a few times a day. My favorite kisses are the big wet ones he plants on me when I’m not expecting it.
At this point, you’re either ready to hate-comment on this post because you think mouth kissing your baby is disgusting or you’re nodding in agreement because you’re also a baby-mouth-kisser. Or maybe you read that Facebook post about the mom whose baby contracted herpes when a relative kissed her on the mouth and you’re still too freaked out to even know where you stand.
Here’s the thing: I’m all of the above. There’s still a part of me that questions whether it’s appropriate. I know it’s fine now when he’s 12 months old and that it’s not fine when he’s 12 years old, but what about all that time in between? It’s a gray area that parenting books don’t really address (actually, that’s just a guess since I haven’t opened one since I was 38 weeks pregnant and had time to read something longer than a tweet), and even pediatricians and clinical psychologists seem divided on.
I decided to consult someone whose opinion on the topic matters a lot to me: Saxon’s dad. And you know what he said? Nothing. He just shrugged. Which is Justin-speak for I’m not worried about it and I don’t know why you are. And he’s right. Like almost all parenting decisions, you don’t really know where you stand on something until you’re standing in it. You just have to trust your instincts and go with what feels right for you. And I know the day will come when kissing Saxon on the lips makes him feel uncomfortable, and when it does, I’ll stop.
Out of curiosity, I recently texted my friend, make-out mom, to ask her at what age she and her almost eight-year-old stopped kissing on the lips. I was shocked when she responded that they still do (“he prefers it!” she said), so I wrote the only thing I could think of: “lol.”
What about you? Are you mouth kisser or not?
Photo credit: Amelie Belanger