The do's and don't's when visiting a family with a new baby.
Ok, so last week I wrote a post about postpartum meals—how gifting a new family with a nourishing meal can go beyond just feeding their bellies, offering a thoughtful reminder that they are loved and supported through this massive life-transition. If you read the post, you might remember me mentioning my well-intentioned colleague who brought over the big pot of chicken broth to our vegetarian house just hours after my son was born and then sat down at our dining room table to eat it with us. Yes indeed: this actually happened. And while I am grateful now for this noble attempt at support, I sure wasn’t too enthused at the time.
So let’s talk about the Do’s and the Don’t’s of visiting friends or family with a new baby!
Do call or text the new family before coming to ask when the best time to visit might be and what you can bring them to help. They can update their voicemail after baby comes with something like this, “The smartest and most beautiful baby in the world was born on Saturday at 1:35pm, weighing 10lbs 2 oz, 21” long; her name is Sweetum Elizabeth Applecakes. We will let you know when we’re ready for visitors.” If the baby was just born, the family will need time to bond with baby. Patience is key.
Do bring a meal. Definitely, definitely bring a meal! See previous post for ideas and inspiration. Just please don’t invite yourself to eat with them, no matter how delicious your meal is!
Do a few chores for the family before leaving. Factor into your visit at least 15 minutes of dish-washing, laundry folding, floor-sweeping, garbage emptying, and/or litter scooping. But here’s a tip: avoid asking them if you can help. This is Oklahoma and chances are they’ll be super polite and say, “oh no, that’s okay, we’ve got it covered.” Just do it quietly without asking, say goodbye and head out.
Do make sure mom has a large glass or bottle filled with fresh water next to wherever she is. Breastfeeding moms need lots of water to produce milk for their babies. They’re also recovering from birth and should be resting as much as possible. By making sure she has a big glass of water by her side, you are saving her a trip to the kitchen. Though it may seem like a small gesture, it will feel significant.
Do keep it snappy. Unless you’re a close family member or friend try to keep your visit to about 30 minutes or so.
Do give mom a gift card for a massage, mani-pedi, or future date night out. Oftentimes we get so excited about a new baby that we forget all about the mom! She’s the one that grew this baby, birthed this baby and will have to stay up all night every night feeding and soothing this baby nonstop. Let’s give her some love!
Do call or text them when you’re at the grocery store next and ask if they need anything. In the first few weeks after having a baby, it can feel damn near impossible to even get out of the house. Sometimes just bringing over sandwich ingredients, a bag of diapers, or a gallon of milk can be a game changer for the new family .
Do tell the parents they’re doing a great job! These first few weeks can be awkward and completely exhausting—new parents need validation. It is hard growing a baby on the inside and it’s hard growing a baby on the outside. If you feel like the couple is in need of further support, refer them on to a postpartum doula, lactation consultant, or counselor.
Don’t ask to hold the baby. Newborn babies need their mothers more than anything else. Remember: they’ve just been born! All they know is mama. Skin-to-skin time, breastfeeding and sleeping soundly will trump a visitor’s hurt feelings any day. Sorry. If the parents would like you to hold the baby, they will probably offer.
Don’t bring junk food or skimpy meals. Be as generous as you can. Give health, give nutrition, give life!
Don’t talk about your birth experiences. This is your time to honor and appreciate this new family and the enormous feat they’ve accomplished. This is about them! Actively listen to their story, gush over their baby, and tell the parents how proud you are!
Don’t judge. This new family might be doing things differently from what you would do. They might be feeding baby with a bottle or choosing to keep baby in a crib in another room. And while information is important (good friends should be honest with each other), pay close attention to how you choose to respond. Instead of chiming in with judgmental statements, you can do one of two things: 1) try asking the parents about their choice (without then telling them how you feel about it!) or 2) say nothing. They might have very legitimate reasons for doing what they’re doing. Always remember: they are the ones raising this baby and they have to make their own choices for their family.
Don’t give advice. This goes pretty hand-in-hand with “Don’t judge.” It can be a relief to know you can check all of your seasoned-parent-wisdom at the door—we might think we know the best ways to comfort a screaming baby or have our own ideas about when the parents should go back to work, but it’s really not any of our business. You’re there to support this new family and that means outwardly showing confidence in their ability to parent. The more you model trust, the more they’ll learn to trust themselves.
Do you have anything you would add to this list?