26 Rules for Visiting a Newborn Baby
Whether it’s your niece, your godson or best friend’s new baby, going to visit a newborn is an exciting time. You’re likely thrilled for the family, as well as thrilled to meet this tiny, special person who will undoubtedly be an important part of your life.
But what’s not said enough is that, for a mother whose just given birth, it’s also an extraordinarily delicate time. Women are recovering from giving birth, are likely more ill-rested than they’ve ever been and are adjusting to meeting the demands of the most demanding person they’ve ever met, 24/7.
While you’ll likely want to get your baby snuggles in ASAP (especially while the little one still has that intoxicating newborn smell), you also want to proceed with caution. Because the thing is — everyone wants to get their baby snuggles in ASAP. And having a slew of endless visitors isn’t exactly relaxing for new parents who’ve just survived the magic (or mayhem) of childbirth.
If you have plans to visit a newborn baby anytime soon, here are a few basic rules to keep in mind.
Do Not Come Unannounced
In the early days of postpartum, do not, I repeat, do not come around uninvited or unannounced. Families are busy adjusting to life on very little sleep (if any) and generally do not appreciate visitors coming when they are least expecting it. Make sure the family has fair warning that you will be coming and ask permission first.
It also might mean waiting for an appropriate time. If you don’t get to see the new baby within the first 24-hours, you’ll recover. But forcing yourself on a family that isn’t ready for your visit, might cause extra stress that isn’t appreciated.
Keep Your Visit Short
It’s almost a given that plenty of people are going to be stopping by to visit a new baby. It’s certainly a time of celebration. But what is not so welcomed is when the revolving door never seems to stop turning.
Be courteous of the fact that you aren’t the only one paying the family a visit, so don’t stay all day. Keep your visit short and sweet to make time for the family to rest or greet other visitors.
Whether it’s a casserole, flowers, or a box of massive sanitary pads (because yes, mom will need them), do not show up to the home where a new baby lives empty-handed.
Better yet, ask what would be most needed before you come. Chances are, there might already be a stack of half-eaten lasagnas in the fridge and what mom really needs is a bottle of wine and some more diapers because, omg, they go so quick. But whatever you bring, bring something.
And don’t be upset if everyone forgets to say thank you either. Remember, they are seriously sleep-deprived and might not even know what day it is.
Ask What the Family Needs
A new mother can feel a variety of ways in the immediate postpartum. From weary, to exhausted, to downright overjoyed. It’s hard to predict exactly how a new mom is feeling or what she’s going through. That’s why it’s so important to tune in and listen to what she needs.
If you don’t know or feel uncertain, don’t be afraid to ask. Often times, we expect new moms to be filled with pure joy when in fact, there are tons of other emotions swirling around.
Be kind, be delicate and give her the space to tell you what would be most helpful.
Don’t Expect to Hold the Baby
Everyone wants a piece of that new baby. So much that sometimes folks will go right ahead and snatch him or her up without asking. That’s a big no-no.
New parents are busy bonding with their babies in that crucial postpartum time period. If mom’s anxieties are heightened, having her newborn passed from person to person might not help her relax but instead trigger anxiety instead.
Always ask permission to hold a newborn rather than assuming it’s your turn. And ask (frequently) if mom is ready to have her baby back. Perhaps she’ll be glad to have the extra arms, but often times, at least early on, moms are more interested in staying closely connected with their newborn. Be open to either scenario and act accordingly.
Wash Your Hands
Even if you aren’t expecting to hold the baby, make sure to wash your hands. New parents appreciate it when you come in their home if your first stop is at the kitchen sink to give your mitts a little scrubbing.
No one wants those outside germs around their newborn, even the most laid-back new parents. So scrub before you come close and especially if you’re planning on snuggling that new bundle.
Do Not Come If You’re Sick
Likewise, do not ever, under any circumstances, come and visit a newborn if you are even remotely under the weather.
If you have so much as a sniffle, don’t expect to be swaddling up that new, very fragile new infant.
Parents do not appreciate your sniffles, or even your sweaty hangover. So stay clear until you’re feeling well enough to come around.
If you’re coming to visit a new baby, there’s not much to do besides ooh and aah. While the family appreciates how much you adore their new baby, ya know what they’d appreciate more? If you didn’t just stand around but made yourself useful.
So much falls by the wayside when caring for a newborn. Dishes get left in the sink. Carpets go un-vacuumed. Even if you’re only staying a few minutes, load the dishwasher, take out the trash, or find some way to make yourself useful.
In the newborn days, a little help around the house goes a long way and is always appreciated.
Focus on the Mother, Not Just the New Baby
New babies are wonderful and amazing. Ya know what else is wonderful and amazing? The person who just brought that new baby into creation. New mamas need some love and attention to, but friends and family are often so wrapped up in excitement about the new baby that they forget about what mom has just gone through.
Like childbirth, recovery, the massive hormone dump and sleeplessness that comes with postpartum. Ask how she’s feeling. Bring her her favorite meal. Offer to run an errand or do anything that might make her life easier.
Giving a little care to a new mom can go a long way, but neglecting a new mom completely, by focusing solely on the new baby can sting and send the wrong message about where your priorities lie.
When you enter a house with a newborn, act as if you are walking into a sacred space. Do not bang on the door. Do not stomp your feet or loudly announce “I’m heeeere!” Maybe even send a text first to let someone know you’ve arrived before you barge in.
Understand that newborn schedules are crazy and hectic and your mere presence might be disrupting whatever tiny portion of sleep everyone is getting.
Be prepared to talk in a whisper, act low-key and generally, behave in the least disruptive way as possible, if the situation calls for it.
Give Older Sibling Attention
Becoming an older sibling is exciting. But it’s often an intense period of adjustment. Watching mom and dad fawn all over a new baby is hard and confusing. When everyone else comes in and starts doing the same exact thing, it can be feel like a double-whammy.
“What about me?” big sis or big bro are often left wondering.
When you show up to visit a new baby, parents love it when you give some love to the big sibling, too. Because it’s not unlikely that they are getting a whole lot less attention they are used to. And ya know what? They don’t want to talk about the new baby.
Play dolls or legos or vampire princesses instead. Pretend the new baby doesn’t exist. Make it all about the big kid, at the very least, for a few minutes. Because if there is one question they are tired of being asked it’s “what do you think of the new baby?”
Keep Your Expectations Low
While moods and circumstances pretty much vary day to day in the early newborn days, most families enjoy having a few visitors come and greet their new baby. But it’s also important to understand what a delicate time it is for everyone and to keep your expectations low.
You might not be able to stay and hang out for long. You might show up and find that mom is taking a much-needed nap. You might even have to drop your lasagna on the porch and come back at a later time.
All of these scenarios shouldn’t upset you because it really isn’t about you in the first place.
Sometimes, the best way to care for the family of a newborn is to give what you can but expect very little because mostly, newborn parents don’t have much to give at the moment. But they’ll be back to themselves soon enough. Well, relatively speaking.
Be a Good Listener
Yes, the baby is cute. The baby is so freakin’ cute. We all know the baby is cute. The parents definitely know (or, they likely believe it is, even if it hasn’t quite cutened up yet).
But instead of droning on and on about the miracle of a child that has been created, let the new parents do some of the talking.
They likely have some thoughts and feelings to share on the birth, the first few hectic weeks or days, and essentially, what it feels like to be in their new roles.
Open your ears and let them know you are there to listen, as much as you are there to see the beautiful child.
Only Offer Advice When Asked
While us veteran parents tend to think we know everything, it’s important to remember that it isn’t your place to offer advice unless that advice is specifically asked for. New parents are constantly bombarded with questions and unwelcome opinions on everything from breastfeeding versus formula feeding, co-sleeping versus crib-sleeping, sleep-training, and so on.
They have probably already heard, read, or absorbed the information you have to give anyway, so leave it on the doorstep. If they want your opinion, believe me, they’ll ask for it.
But being a parent is much more about figuring out what works for you, rather than trying to do things like everyone else. Let them know you have plenty of advice to offer if they want it, but don’t push, pry and especially, don’t judge their choices if they are different than your own.
Don’t Assume Everyone Is Over the Moon
Even in the best of circumstances — a birth that went off without a hitch, a baby who sleeps peacefully and soundly — postpartum is demanding. Don’t make the mistake of assuming everyone is blissful and perfectly content in this wonderful, yet immensely challenging stage of life.
The truth is, postpartum is hard as hell and sometimes, it can take a while to adjust to the relentless demands. Be encouraging and stay away from cliche phrases like “enjoy every moment,” or “aren’t you so fulfilled?”
Chances are, the proud parents are happy, but they are also tired, stressed, and dealing with a forcefield of other emotions. Not to mention, a huge number of new mothers will experience a postpartum mood disorder, so treating her as if she should be nothing but excited, grateful and filled with instantaneous joy can do more harm than good.
Don’t Bring Piles of Hand-Me-Downs
If you’ve had a baby in the last few years, chances are your home is brimming with infant and toddler clothes you can no longer use. Kids grow quickly and sometimes you feel like you’re loading up clothes and shipping them off to Goodwill once a month.
While there might be a time and a place to pass down clothes to friends with babies who need them, the immediate postpartum baby visit is not that time. Parents don’t have the time, energy, or desire to sort through piles of used baby clothes to see what will fit, what’s old and dirty, and what can’t be worn until next season.
Bringing a cute onesie or a hand-knitted hat is one thing. Bringing barrels of your used clothing items is another. You can always mention you have extra clothes to give, but make sure it’s actually wanted before you unload all your baby crap on your friends who are likely drowning in enough of it as it is.
Let Them Sleep
I will never forget the people who held my baby while I took a nap. Those people were few and far between and so they were invaluable.
It’s not unlikely that your offer to let them sleep will be turned down — new parents often want to remain close to their baby, which is biologically normal and healthy. But sleep deprivation, even for a few days, can impact mental health.
An offer to hold the baby while they catch a nap might be passed up. But that doesn’t mean you shouldn’t make it anyway. It just might be the most important postpartum gift you can give.
Your time is valuable. You might feel like you have better things to do and sitting inside someone’s house, rocking their new baby or tending to their dishes. Chances are, it might not be your number one place to be.
But there are few times in life when people need more help than during postpartum. Be as generous as you can in whatever ways that you can contribute.
A little goes a long way, so whether it’s kind encouraging words, asking new parents what they need, or simply being present and attentive, don’t let the other “more important” things get in the way of being a good friend or family member. Now is the time to extend a hand. Chances are, it will be so appreciated.
Come Back Later, If Need Be
Sometimes, even if you’ve planned ahead and cleared your schedule, it turns out, it’s not a good time for a visit. Parents can’t help a lot of the struggles that go on in the newborn days. Whether everyone was awake all night the night before, baby suddenly refuses to latch, or a host of other infant dilemmas, they are never far off.
You might feel like you’ve been blown off, but try to be flexible with your time and not to feel rejected if you’re asked to come back later.
Parents should be worrying more about their new baby than your feelings, so while it’s disappointing to be told “it’s not a good time,” it’s also vital that you respect their wishes and reschedule your visit.
Don’t Bring Other Guests Without Asking
There are nothing new parents despise more than an entire house full of people, especially if those people weren’t invited. Don’t assume you can bring other guests with you or that an invitation to visit meant everyone in town was welcome to come over.
Parents will end up feeling like they are throwing an impromptu party, rather than having their friends or family members come for a visit. So don’t take a “the more the merrier” approach.
Don’t ask to bring other guests along who weren’t invited and, definitely, don’t show up with them unannounced either.
Avoid Heavy Odors
First off, take a shower when you’re going to anyone’s house for a visit. That’s just good hygiene. But when going to see and (possibly) touch or hold a new baby, avoid strong smells, like moisturizers and perfumes.
Not only can it be off-putting to a postpartum mom who might not feel so hot, it can irritate infant’s, too. Aside from the smell maybe being a little too intense, many perfumes are filled with toxins that parents might not want a fresh-outta-the-womb infant absorbing.
Soap and water will do just fine. So maybe save the perfume for your date night.
Keep the Focus Off of You
New parents have just undergone a huge life change. More than likely, they want to tell you about it.
Don’t bust in and talk about yourself the whole time. Sometimes, it can be a welcomed distraction to the business of being a new parent.
But keep the focus on the family and off of yourself, unless, of course, you’re asked. Even still, keep it brief and make sure the family feels your focus is what’s happening in their life- not what’s going on in yours.
Do Not Leave a Mess Behind
If you’re visiting a new baby, you should never ever leave a mess. Not even a tiny one.
Chances are, the house isn’t going to be clean anyway. There is simply too much for parents to keep up with in those early days and a lot falls by the wayside.
While it’s great if you can lend a hand, don’t assume because the house is already a mess that your hosts don’t mind you contributing to it. You should leave the house without a trace, or if possible, cleaner than you found it.
Offer to take off your shoes and be as discreet as possible. Most importantly, you’re a grown person: clean up after yourself!
Abide By the Parents’ Rules
Even if they seem wacky or out of character, follow whatever rules the parents lay out. If they want you to take off your shoes before coming in, use hand-sanitizer, only swaddle the baby in a super specific 100 percent all-organic, natural, hypoallergenic cotton blanket, just do it.
New parents are supposed to be a little high-maintenance about their freshly-baked infant. So even if it feels strange to you, remember, their anxieties are a little high because they are doing the most important job in the world: protecting and nurturing their child.
Don’t push back on their requests or act like they are out of their minds. Just be respectful and make them feel comfortable enough to tell you what they would prefer you do or don’t do. Chances are, they won’t always be so high-strung. So, for now, just got with it.
Tell a White Lie
Few times in life are more vulnerable than after giving birth, then quickly learning to care for a new baby. That means it’s not the time for brutal honesty.
Hate the baby’s name? Say it’s “unique.” Think the house is an utter pigsty? Tell them it’s normal to have a messy house in this phase of life! Think mom looks like she could still be pregnant? Get over yourself because postpartum bodies are freaking amazing (and you should tell her that, too).
Essentially, if you need to bite your tongue or stretch the truth, do it. Emotions are running high and no one needs your fearless truth-telling that bad. Not right now.
Make a Plan for How to Help in the Future
Lots of times, new parents get a slew of new visitors all at once, then never see their friends again. Okay, that’s a bit of a stretch but it sometimes feels that way.
Everyone wants a glimpse of the new baby and then they fall off the radar. It can leave new parents feeling lonely after the initial visits fade away.
Don’t be a friend that falls off the radar. Instead, follow up a week or two later and make a plan for when to visit again, bring a meal, or help out in some way. Eventually, mom and dad will need a night out but they may feel hurt by those who haven’t been around through their life transition.
Don’t be a fair-weather friend. Let them know you are nearby, and not just for the fun stuff.