How to visit a newborn

At my 3am feeding last night, I read an article that talked about visiting newborns that I thought didn’t have enough specific information and I thought I would add to it. To my family and friends: please don’t take offense to this list! We love all that everyone has done for us in the last weeks.

Don’t be late. Likely feedings have been timed so that your visit is interrupted the least by long breastfeeding sessions and naps. Sometimes you can’t help it – toddler meltdowns, diaper blow outs, freight trains, traffic. If you’re going to be late, let the parents know as soon as you realize.

Don’t stay long. Especially during the first couple weeks, everyone is tired. Moms been up feeding, dad wakes up every time, even siblings feel the wrath of a newborn in the house. When you visit, remember the old saying ‘you sleep when the baby sleeps.’ Those zoned out eyes are exhausted and can’t entertain much more than an hour or so.

Do wash your hands. If moms are like me, they are strongly telling you to go wash your hands with their mind. I feel awkward instructing my friends and family to wash their hands, especially those who have kids, pets, or are coming from work. When you stop by to visit a new baby, make a B-line to the nearest sink and lather up.

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Don’t bring sick or rowdy kids. This should be a no brainer. Although babies are tough and resilient, they also don’t get vaccinated until they are 2 months old. If you can only visit with your own children, make sure they are not sick. Also, the environment around the newborn is probably quiet and calm. Bringing a kid that needs to be scolded or yelled at makes for a tense situation and will probably make the new parents uncomfortable.

Do offer to help. Depending on how close you are with your friend who just had a baby, offer to help around the house. Fold some laundry, empty the dishwasher, or whatever mundane task you see around. Saying “do you want me to do _____” will probably result in a polite “no” because who wants to assign chores to their friends or family? Switching it to “let me do your _____ (insert chore)” will likely get a defeated yes. How desheveled does the mom look? Offering to watch after her sleeping baby while she takes an uninterrupted shower could be the best gift you can give at this stage.

Don’t come empty handed. This is especially true at a meal or morning time. I’m not saying to bring a five course meal, but bagels and coffee or sandwiches will go a long way. A small gift for the baby, siblings, or parents are also really well received. Showing up expecting to be entertained is not going to end well for you.

Don’t make it about you. If you’re already a parent, don’t turn the conversations about your experiences during the birthing process or your first weeks unless you’re asked. The people you are visiting should be getting all of the attention and want to show off the latest fruit of their loins. As happy as you are to brag about your own kids achievements, it’s not the time.

I am completely guilty of everything on this list. After Nora was born, five babies we know were born. We brought our rowdy kid, overstayed our welcome, showed up late and empty handed, compared their stories to our own, and walked in ready to grab the new baby. With our new line of visitors frequenting our house, I’m lucky to say that we really haven’t had much of an issue with this list.

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