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Etiquette Questions Answered

New Baby Thank You Notes: How Soon Is Not Soon Enough?

By Amalah

I sent a baby gift for a newborn – father is second cousin, never met him or his wife – a month ago. Is it too early to expect a thank-you note? Had a falling out with baby’s grandfather over this. Please respond ASAP.

Yes, it is too early. I mean, it is too early to be actually getting up-in-arms level offended, or picking fights with extended family members over it. (Although I admit I’m unclear who is on what side of the argument here; if you’ve taken it as a slight or if the baby’s grandfather thinks the new parents are slacking off. Either way, this is not a hill either of you should be dying on!)

The ruling etiquette for thank-you notes for baby shower gifts (which are usually received by the parents-to-be about four to six weeks before the birth), is that notes should go out no later than two months after the birth, unless there are extenuating circumstances like a rough delivery or health problem. Most etiquette guides suggest that gift recipients send them out BEFORE the baby arrives, just for their own sanity’s sake, because obviously thank-you notes (while absolutely the polite thing to do!) are definitely going to shift into the Low Priority Category while they adjust to life with a newborn. (Sort of like how brides-to-be are advised to get shower thank-you notes out before the wedding and another wave of gifts roll in, thus causing even the most well-intentioned bride to fall behind or feel overwhelmed by the task.)

But it doesn’t sound like this was a baby shower gift, but something sent after the birth? Or close to it? If so, I think AT A MINIMUM, you need to give the new parents the original four-to-six-week timeframe PLUS the two additional months of leeway. Honestly, I’d cut the new parents even more slack and be happy to get my card within six months. (Basically, plz just acknowledge the baby gift I sent before inviting me to his or her first birthday party, where I am expected again to bring ANOTHER gift, okay?)

If you know for a fact that the gift was successfully delivered, that’s enough for now. If you’re concerned it got lost in the mail, there’s nothing wrong with making a polite inquiry — to your cousin directly, not via the family grapevine — just to make sure. A quick email adding your congratulations on the baby, just wanted to confirm that such-and-such gift arrived, you didn’t have tracking info or don’t 100% trust it, etc. This should not be a thank-you note fishing expedition, but just a friendly check-in to make sure the gift actually made it to its intended recipient.

But is is important to acknowledge that yeah, some people are really, really bad at thank-you notes. They’re disorganized, they forget to document what they receive and from who, they don’t have an up-t0-date address book that includes second cousins that they’ve never met before and keep forgetting to ask someone. Or they just weren’t raised with the expectation that yes, you send thank-you notes to people who give you gifts. Maybe the baby has colic and they haven’t slept more than two hours in a row this month and won’t get to thank-you notes until the baby starts solids and they can come up for air. No matter WHAT the situation is, though, it’s been a month. That’s far from egregiously rude, and sooooo not worth stoking the flames of family drama over. Definitely disengage from any and all further thank-you note discussions, especially with people who neither sent nor received the gift in question.

About the Author

Amy Corbett Storch


Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Ama...

Amalah is a pseudonym of Amy Corbett Storch. She is the author of the Advice Smackdown and Bounce Back. You can follow Amy’s daily mothering adventures at Amalah. Also, it’s pronounced AIM-ah-lah.

If there is a question you would like answered on the Advice Smackdown, please submit it to [email protected].

Amy also documented her second pregnancy (with Ezra) in our wildly popular Weekly Pregnancy Calendar, Zero to Forty.

Amy is mother to rising first-grader Noah, preschooler Ezra, and toddler Ike.

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