I know hearing someone you care about just had a baby is EXCITING, and you want to celebrate with them and share in the joy that this new little one brings. Plus who can honestly resist the temptation that visiting a newborn and seeing all that cuteness?
But while you have merely had this huge hit of “happy hormones” the new parents and baby are dealing with some life-altering changes.
Mamma – especially in the first few weeks is going through a whole lot OUTSIDE of the changes that come with giving birth. There are hormone swings and her body changing to the new norm now that baby is no longer inside. Plue late-night feedings (breastfeed and formula-fed babies all eat frequently) are an adjustment. There is a lack of sleep, and the need to heal physically, mentally and emotionally even if everything went smoothly or as expected during delivery.
Daddy – A good Daddy at this point is focused on caring for his wife and child, it’s likely that he hasn’t been getting much sleep either. Either the baby is waking him up, or Mamma’s smacking him awake in frustration from seeing him sleep through it all. Add to that he is also now responsible for feeding everyone and taking care of the older kids (if there are any) while Mamma recovers and the postpartum stage is NOT the easiest on him either. Now add to the mix a Mamma who is overwhelmed emotionally and bedridden which can happen to any of us, a positive birth story included. And Daddy is likely exhausted too.
Baby – ummmm, not sure I really need to point this out here but Baby was in Mamma, now it’s not. So their entire world is different and big and scary and (imagine a baby crying in the background) they need Mamma RIGHT NOW! because Mamma is all they have known that is their comfort, the second they are remotely uncomfortable they cry for Mamma….
These are just some of the things that are often going on behind closed doors. While everyone’s experience after having the baby is unique to them often when we see the announcement on Facebook or we get a text or phone call and we don’t see the background of how everyone is handling the transition.
And that is why there are some rules when you visit a newborn and new parents, even if they have done this before you need to respect their boundaries and make sure the focus is on their care and support through this transition.
As someone visiting a new baby, the goal should be to support the new parents in the transition to their new “normal”. However, it can be hard to know how to help or even how to offer help. And we don’t want to make assumptions but still, be as supportive as we can.
With that in mind here are some rules to help you be supportive when visiting a newborn;
Always Schedule in Advance
Dropping by unannounced to visit a newborn is one of the rudest things anyone can do. The baby may have just gone to sleep for the first time in 24 hours and then you ring the doorbell… yeah, I had that happen, and I wanted to kill the person NOT be nice.
The parents may have just finally gotten to sleep, or eat or … I think you get the picture here. There is so much going on at home that an unannounced visit is a burden to already exhausted parents.
Don’t assume you can visit a newborn in the early weeks
Not everyone is up for visitors in the very early weeks, I know the first time I had a baby I didn’t want to see anyone until week 2. People were over in the first 24 hours… I was not ok with it then, and I’m still not ok with it now.
As I write this I’m 8 days postpartum with our second, and in tears thinking about how I’ve put up with more visitors than I wanted to see in the first week…
You see the emotions can be very high and rather extream in the early stages. I’m not just talking the Baby Blues either, Mamma’s hormones are all over the place adapting to what has happened and that means all sorts of stuff comes out she may not even know was there.
Add to that the chance she is dealing with Postpartum Anxiety, Postpartum Depression or even the more common Baby Blues and your visit with her newborn might be triggering a whole lot you are not seeing.
Personally I know more Mamma’s who were more grateful for the later visitors who held off visiting than the early ones.
Following up with a quick text or call 15 minutes or so before you arrive gives you the opportunity to see if they need anything. Mamma is likely housebound at least for the first little bit, so if you call ahead and let them know where you are they may need something you can pick up. Score! You’ve just been helpful!
Also with new babies in the house days and nights blend together pretty quick, this Mamma certainly lost track of what day and time it was over the last week and it would be easy to forget who is planning to stop by and when. A quick touching base is a great way to make sure the new parents are still ok with you coming to visit them and their newborn.
Be Understanding if they cancel last minute
Things can change very quickly when there is a newborn in the house, and it’s easy for Mamma to get tired. Or to fall asleep randomly throughout the day, if you get a message 10 minutes before you were due to show up canceling, just wish Mamma a good day, and tell her it’s totally understandable. You can always visit the newborn another time.
Don’t take it personal ok? Flying off the hook, or making her feel bad when a Mamma asks for something like this is just NOT COOL. I don’t care what your relationship with her is, it’s never called for.
When Visiting a Newborn Keep it Short
As already mentioned, new parents and new baby means exhausted people. Especially in the early weeks’ extended visits (no matter how fun and how much we love everyone) is tiring.
Being there for someone sometimes means giving them space to relax by not physically being there, or by keeping your visit short. For some new parents this means as little as 15 minutes in a visit others it could be an hour so pay attention.
If one parent or the other looks like they are getting sleepy you have overstayed already so please kindly excuse yourself.
If anyone around you is sick stay home
If you are sick, your kids are sick or you think someone at work may be getting sick STAY HOME! Newborn babies do not have a fully developed immune system and that little cough you might possibly have could be very dangerous for babe.
DO NOT KISS THE BABY
This one should really go without saying, honestly, people, do not kiss a new baby unless it’s YOUR new baby! If you are visiting new parents and a newborn baby that baby has NO IMMUNE SYSTEM.
Recently there have been cases in the news about people who didn’t know they had a cold sore kissing a baby… this can be deadly for a newborn who has no defenses against the virus herpes which causes them.
When Visiting a Newborn Follow Mamma’s Rules without Comment
And I mean NO comment, sorry Daddy’s but you gotta follow this one too! (at least in front of the visitors)
Some new Mamma’s have some interesting rules that you may or may not agree with. But if you have a Mamma who is standing up for her rules and telling you what is and isn’t ok follow along without commenting, or raising an eyebrow, making a face, or otherwise indicating you don’t agree or find it silly.
This is after all her new baby and new family, even if it seems like her intentions are counter to yours you need to respect her. And while maybe in the future she may change those rules she doesn’t need to hear that right now.
Remember the emotions I mentioned above? Yeah, one I keep hitting is the pure rage at people telling me “in the future….” fill in the blank with whatever you want, cause chances are I just stopped seeing you in it. We clear?
You may also want to hold off on spewing out any research that “proves” her rules are off base, Mamma’s are bombarded with enough pressure to “bounce back” and “get it right” you don’t want to come across as the judgemental friend who made that and her emotional outbursts harder to handle.
If Baby needs feeding …
Be respectful here ok? If it’s a breastfed baby don’t try and cover Mamma or Baby “for their comfort”, if it’s a bottle-fed baby don’t lecture on the benefits of breastfeeding…
Mamma’s already catch a lot of flack for a host of decisions and how they feed their babies is one of those hot topics that really rials up some people. Keep in mind you are there visiting a newborn, not to judge. You are meant to be supportive, not condescending.
If Mamma asks you to leave the room while feeding do that, if she asks you for a pillow to support her little one get it. If she breaks out a boob or bottle and snuggles into her little one to continue chatting then continue with the conversation as though it’s not happening. And for heaven’s sake don’t stare!
Some women are comfortable with nursing in front of others (like me) uncovered, others want privacy. And still, others can be too tired to realize they are feeding the baby. If you are uncomfortable get over it, not your body, not your baby, not your choice.
When Visiting a Newborn Leave the Unsolicited Advice at home
We all understand that if we would exercise and eat better our bodies would feel better and be more healthy. This advice is common but not always useful or effective.
Even if it sounds like Mamma is asking for advice, chances are she needs to talk. You are not there to fix the problems, instead, let Mamma vent without providing solutions.
Help her reflect by repeating back to her the things she has said. Things like “It sounds like you’re struggling with sleep deprivation” instead of “you need to stop holding the baby so much”
Only if she asks what you would do should you offer advice, and even then you need to show sympathy for what she is dealing with and that you understand why she is feeling like this.
Wait for Mamma to offer before holding the Baby
Mamma’s need bonding time, skin to skin, and the smell of baby’s head especially in the early weeks. And it’s not just a breastfed baby thing either, it’s good for Mamma’s hormones and can provide a calming or stabilizing effect on some of her mood swings.
As much as that little one is cute and adorable and you just want to cuddle it DON’T. Depending on your relationship many Mamma’s I’ve talked to have spoken of feeling forced to allow others to hold their baby before they were ready. And all the other person did was ASK…asking can often make new parents feel obligated to agree even when they are not wanting or ready to.
So especially in the first few weeks when visiting a newborn please let Mamma hold kiddo. Don’t make comments about how it would be nice to hold baby, don’t outright ask or hint in any way.
Believe me, she knows you want to hold the little one, but if she isn’t offering without being prompted leave her be and enjoy the view.
When Visiting a Newborn Always Wash Your hands before holding the baby.
If you are lucky and Mamma offers to let you hold the baby go wash your hands first! Better yet, sanitize them when you come in the house and again after Mamma offers to let you hold babe.
Remember Baby’s do not have a fully developed immune system. Whatever germs you are carrying could have serious consequences for the newborn you are visiting.
Don’t drink hot liquids while holding the baby
I really believe that this should be considered common sense but … you’d be surprised how many people don’t even think about this one.
Drinking hot tea while holding a baby is just not worth it people, and at the very least you are likely to make the new parents very uncomfortable.
Don’t wake the baby
Newborns especially need a lot of sleep, so it’s likely that you will see them sleeping. If they are awake chances are they want to eat or need a diaper change. So give the parents a break and let the baby sleep!
Keep your hygiene clean
New Mamma’s can have an intense sense of smell and the other senses are on high alert too! Walking in with dirty clothing runs the risk of germs for the newborn you are visiting. But also smelling of things like smoke, perfume or cologne in any amount can be overpowering for both Mamma and Baby.
So when visiting a newborn keep things clean, and Don’t leave a scent behind when you leave. Chances are Mamma is going to pick it up on baby and it will get annoying.
Don’t Make Comments on Mamma’s Appearance
Trust me, she knows she looks exhausted, likely hasn’t had a good shower in a while, and her hair may be all over the place. Doesn’t matter, comments on how she looks are not acceptable at this time.
If you absolutely HAVE to comment on something make sure it’s positive. Many new mothers struggle with insecurities that can be very overwhelming. She may feel fat, ugly, inadequate, anxious, tired, depressed, moody… you get the drift. So long as you are sincere compliments are a good thing.
Don’t ask a tone of questions
Many people are curious about things like how a new Mamma is doing, how the birth went, and how baby is doing.
It’s understandable that you want to know, but Mamma especially may need more time to process what has happened (especially if it was a traumatic birth for her). Or she may not feel like sharing right now, or she may be a private person to begin with.
In addition to that new Mothers are often bombarded with a whole host of overwhelming emotions and it’s easy to be confused by their own feelings. Time will usually help them so it’s best not to dig!
If, on the other hand Mamma wants to talk and process out loud, then listen to her. It can be a great way to support and care for a new mother.
I can say from personal experience that with my first I wanted to tell everyone what happened during the birth and right away. With my second I’m 8 days postpartum writing this and I’ve discussed it with my Midwife, Doulas, and Husband but am not ready to share with anyone else yet.
While we are on the topic of questions, never ask if a baby is sleeping through the night…newborns don’t. End of story, they have small tummies that need filling regularly so they can grow…ie waking frequently is NORMAL. That question just makes new parents nervous that something could be wrong with their baby so don’t ask.
When visiting a newborn don’t be surprised or offended if the new Mother is emotional, anxious, or upset.
A new Mother can experience a whole host of emotions in a short time frame, especially in the early weeks when her hormones and lack of sleep are affecting her mood the most.
Please don’t be surprised or take it personally. It can take a while for things in her body to settle down, and if she had a traumatic birth she will need time to grieve (yes grieve) the birth she wished for and didn’t get.
And even if the birth wasn’t traumatic but something amazing, the emotions at this time can be more than a little overwhelming and confusing.
With time and patience, she will settle into her new role and feel more confident in it. So let her be.
Ask before taking or posting any photos online
I know they likely posted a birth announcement on social media, and many of us don’t bat an eye at posting selfies and check ins etc. But when it comes to someone’s baby you need to ask, even if it’s being posted in a closed group with all the security etc.
There are many new parents who are uncomfortable with their children having photos online and a variety of reasons for this. Even taking photos that stay on your phone might make some parents nervous.
Don’t hold this against the new parents, and respect their choice. If the parents are visibly in disagreement on this (Mr. B. and I can never agree on it) default to no photos.
Play with the older kids
If this is not her first chances are you will see the older kiddos during your visit. As tempting as it is to focus on the baby the older ones need to be included and feel like they are important too!
If this is the second baby it’s likely that the older child is feeling more than a little stress over the transition to older sibling. Ignoring them while visiting a newborn can make it worse/harder for the new parents as they transition into a new family norm and have to deal with all the big emotions our older children go through in the process too.
I mean think about the formula?
Hormonal Overwhelmed Mamma + New Baby with sleepless nights + Energetic Toddler who has big emotions = chaos more often than not.
Helping by putting some direct attention on the older child/children can help remind the kiddos that they are just as important as the baby. And give them some much-needed outlets for all that energy.
Don’t assume it’s ok to bring your kids
Kids usually come with noise and distraction, and a whole lot of energy. Some parents and some babies are just not up for excess stimulation.
Offer first to visit without your young children, who also are frequently the carriers of how many colds etc from school or daycare. It’s always worth making the offer to see how the new parents feel and invite them to be honest with you.
Don’t forget about Dad
Most of the time when we are visiting a newborn we think about Mamma and Baby, and that is understandable. But Dad is going through a change too, if he is like Mr. B. he just watched his wife go through labor and he may be processing what the heck happened too!
And as much as our society doesn’t always admit it, Men have emotions too! And while they may not realize it until later can feel a little left out when the focus is all on their wife and baby.
So bring a little something to congratulate them with, or even just make sure to talk to them too! They could very well be missing adult conversation as much as Mamma is.
Ask if there are any chores you could help with
I know it can feel awkward to dive in on someone else’s chores or cleaning around the house. Doing chores can involve someone’s very personal space in their home. And often we don’t know where things go or how they like them done so something like emptying the dishwasher can be a challenge.
But it’s worth it to offer the help, many Mamma’s will appreciate the offer to help offload something from her to-do list. If she minds she’ll let you know, but many will appreciate the extra hands.
A few things you could offer are:
- loading/unloading the dishwasher
- Emptying trash cans or recycling
- Wiping and Spraying Surfaces
- Loading and unloading the Laundry (or moving some from the wash to dryer)
- Folding Laundry (the baby’s laundry might be the least awkward)
- Getting the Mail
- Feeding Pets/Cleaning out the Litter Box (if there is a Cat)
- Vacuming (especially if Mamma had a C-Section she’s likely not supposed to do this)
When Visiting a Newborn Bring Food
Besides cleaning the other essential all new parents need is Food!
If you had visited at any other time it’s likely you would have been offered something to eat or drink. But in this instance don’t expect her to prepare something to eat, even a small snack isn’t on her radar.
If you plan to eat with her make sure you bring enough for the both of you.
Or better yet, bring enough for her whole family Daddy included. And while you are there prepare it so all Mamma has to do is sit down and eat. For example, if you bring lasagna heat it up, cut the pieces, grab the utensils and serve her.
A couple of ideas for food you could bring include:
- gift cards to restaurants or online food delivery services (SkipTheDishes)
- Boxed Frozen Meals
- Frozen Homemade meals she can eat later
- Already-cook, ready-to-go meals like soup that can be eaten now or frozen for later
It can be pretty isolating being home with a baby, and where some Mamma’s thrive on it and others not so much. And entertainment is something to help chase away the boredom or even the feeling of disconnect that can accompany being home on your own.
So when you visit a newborn leave something like a book, a magazine, or a new game to play. Mamma will need something other than the baby to keep her occupied and feeling like she is still human.
Hand-me-downs are AWESOME, and most new Mamma’s will love them. From children’s books to clothes to gear many new parents rely on hand-me-downs to keep their budgets in line.
Before you bring anything check first. Not everyone needs all hand-me-downs.
I, for instance, have a multitude of cousins and my siblings’ kids who have all sent us hand-me-downs at some point. Like to the point that I didn’t need to buy clothes for the first 3 years of my oldest son’s life. And I’ve kept them all so kiddo number two will get to make use of them all as well.
I would hate for someone to bring me something only to have to take it back because I couldn’t use it.
Don’t expect to be “hosted”
I had one visitor with our first baby that showed up in week 3 of my postpartum. She came in, asked to have a drink, and something to snack on then proceeded to require me to entertain her… yeah, no, not going to happen!
Mamma’s focus is not going to be on being a hostess, Daddy maybe if he’s had enough time to recover from the birth and isn’t being woken by Baby or flying pillows (ask Mr. B. how him sleeping peacefully all through the night went over while I was up at all hours).
If there is a new baby in the house, chances are no one has plans to entertain you, or the energy it requires to entertain any guests.
In Summary, When Visiting a Newborn be considerate
Most new parents are happy to share in the joy of their new little bundle. But they are not going to have the energy to entertain, or possibly even stay awake for the duration of an extended visit.
So be considerate, keep things short and sweet, and be encouraging. If anyone looks tiered politely bow out and let them know you can visit another time when they have had more time to settle.
This time is after all supposed to be about them as a family and is specifically intended to let Mamma recover and bond with baby. Not about you getting your newborn cuddles on.