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 we were discharged from the hospital, family from out of town came to visit and stay with us. Luckily, I had worked with my doula before the birth to figure out what kinds of 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, brought food and gifts. It also produced helpful in-laws and parents who stayed at our home to help with cooking, cleaning, and watching our newborn so we could sleep.
When we’re on the other side of childbirth–that is, we are the ones knocking on the door to meet a newborn–it can be helpful to consider the feelings of the family before we schedule a visit. We may be inclined to rush over 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. Maybe 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 useful etiquette you may want to consider.
10 Do’s and Don’t’s for Visiting a New Baby
Here are ten simple “do’s and do-not’s” 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 you can.
DO Bring A Gift
It’s common courtesy to bring a small gift or token of celebration when you visit a new baby. You can bring flowers, a balloon, a houseplant, a home-cooked meal or dinner, a gift for the baby, a treat for mom, 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, just say hello and head over to the kitchen sink or bathroom to scrub your hands clean. Germs can be hazardous to infants, so be vigilant about cleaning 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 trying to manage. If you are able to babysit for a few hours so that parents can catch a few zzz’s, this helps the entire family. Mom is able to 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 need to ask their permission before you show up to the hospital or their home. Ask the parents when a good time is to come 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 you go to visit 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 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 sick. 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. Have a 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 ought to be parenting. If they ask you for suggestions and advice, then feel free to share your ideas with them. Otherwise, keep those thoughts to yourself.
The bottom line when visiting a new baby and its family is to remember that the visit is not about you! 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 “best postpartum guest ever!”