I remember how excited my friends and family were to come and visit our new baby when our oldest daughter was born. I was just getting the hang of nursing her in the hospital room when we got our first wave of visitors. After being discharged from the hospital, family from out of town came to visit and stay with us. Luckily, I worked with my doula before birth to determine what boundaries I wanted to set for these exact circumstances. I told family and friends when they could come and wasn’t afraid to ask for help. That resulted in respectful visitors who stayed for short visits and brought food and gifts while in the hospital. It also produced helpful grandparents and in-laws who stayed at our home to help cook, clean, and watch our newborn so we could sleep.
When we’re on the other side of childbirth—that is, we were the ones knocking on the door to meet a newborn—it can be helpful to consider the family’s feelings before we schedule a visit. We may be inclined to rush to the hospital or family’s home to say hello immediately after the birth. Maybe it’s your sister’s first newborn, your friend’s second baby, or your brother’s fourth child. Perhaps you’ve done this many times, or maybe it’s a brand-new experience. Whatever the case, when parents of a newborn are ready to accept visitors, there is a helpful etiquette you may want to consider.
10 Do’s and Don’ts for Visiting a New Baby
Here are ten simple “do’s and do nots” that every enthusiastic and well-intentioned visitor can benefit from reading before visiting a new baby.
DO Keep Your Visit Short
Most new parents aren’t looking for hours of conversation after their child is born. A new family needs space to rest. Remember that others are likely visiting, too, so keep your stay short and sweet. And while you’re there, be as polite and helpful as possible.
DO Bring A Gift
It’s a common courtesy to bring a small gift or token of celebration when you visit a new baby. For example, you can bring flowers, a balloon, a houseplant, a home-cooked meal or dinner, a gift for the baby, a treat for mom or dad, or a present for the new baby’s siblings. Try not to arrive empty-handed.
DO Wash Your Hands
Wash your hands with soap and warm water as soon as you arrive. Don’t wait to be told; say hello and head to the kitchen sink or bathroom to clean your hands. Germs can be hazardous to infants, so be vigilant about washing your hands.
DO Clean Something
In the days and weeks after my daughters were born, the nicest thing people did for me was clean my house. I absolutely loved having folks wash the dishes, sweep and vacuum, fold laundry or wipe down surfaces for me. I was exhausted. The last thing I wanted to do in those postpartum days was clean, so I appreciated these acts of service very much!
DO Offer to Watch the Baby So Parents Can Sleep
Sleep deprivation is a real circumstance that new parents often find themselves managing. If you can babysit for a few hours so the new parents can get some rest, this helps the entire family. Mom can produce breast milk and think more clearly when she can get some rest. And Dad can continue to care for mother and baby with greater ease when he is well-rested, too.
Don’t Do This!
DON’T Show Up Unannounced
Parents are sleep-deprived and recovering physically, mentally, and emotionally from the intensity of childbirth. Therefore, you must ask their permission before visiting the hospital or home. Ask the parents when is a good time to visit and stick to that plan.
DON’T Bail Last Minute or Change the Time Repeatedly
It’s important to do your best to stick to a date and time when visiting a new baby and their family. Give the parents plenty of notice if you need to reschedule the visit. Respect their limited time and energy to meet with you.
DON’T Expect to Touch or Hold The Baby
Some parents are comfortable allowing others to hold their newborn. Some parents are not. Do not be offended if they decline your request. This is an important time for parents to bond with their baby. If people holding the newborn makes mom anxious, this can negatively affect her milk production. Be sure to ask first and don’t force anything.
DON’T Come If You’re Sick
If you are even slightly ill, it’s best not to visit a newborn. The last thing you want to do is get a baby sick and threaten their well-being because you were ill. Furthermore, you don’t want to spread sick germs to the parents, whose immune systems may already be compromised due to lack of sleep. It’s also not recommended to bring children with you unless the parents you are visiting have approved. If approved, talk with your child or children before entering their home about not touching things and not touching the baby.
DON’T Offer Unsolicited Advice
As much as you might disagree with something the newborn’s parents are doing, don’t suggest how you think they should be parenting. If they ask you for suggestions and advice, feel free to share your ideas. Otherwise, keep those thoughts to yourself.
When visiting a new baby and its family, the bottom line is to remember that the visit is not about you! So be as respectful and helpful as you can while you are there. And avoid overstepping common-sense boundaries and wearing out your welcome. By following these simple do’s and don’t’s, you’ll be sure to leave your mark as the “best postpartum guest ever!”