The joy of welcoming a newborn baby is exciting. It’s natural to want to visit, but the reality of visitors after giving birth is likely to be overwhelming and exhausting for the parents, especially mum.
Besides sleep and a shower, what new parents need in the first few days - or weeks - after the arrival of a new baby is thoughtfulness. In all the excitement, family and friends can get so caught up in the joy of a new baby that they can forget key essentials.
Here are 16 tips for newborn etiquette that every new parent will appreciate you do … or don’t do.
1. Ask first
Before stopping in unannounced, ask first. Send a text message to ask if they are accepting visitors, and when would be convenient. Avoid calling in case they are asleep and you wake them.
Keep in mind there may be restricted visiting hours if they are in hospital.
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2. Don’t share the good news without permission
Under no circumstances is it okay to share the good news, or photographs, of the new arrival without permission. This rule is particularly important if the parents are not on social media.
3. Don’t make it about you.
If they ask you to hold off from visiting, don’t be offended. It’s not about you.
4. Be respectful
10am-ish is not a time. When you confirm a time don’t be late. Schedules are so important to parents, especially in the first 12 weeks.
When you arrive, whether at the hospital or at their home, wash your hands and don’t ask to hold the baby, especially if they don’t offer.
If you’re visiting them at home, offer to take off your shoes.
New parents don't need to offer afternoon tea to visitors. Instead, offer to put on the kettle, and serve up some treats you have brought with you. Don't forget to clear up before you leave.
6. Don’t expect to hold the babies
Wait until the new parents ask if you would like to hold the baby. Hopefully, you will get that chance. But keep in mind, it’s not always convenient.
7. Don’t kiss the baby
New babies are so irresistible. If you do get a cuddle, resist the urge to shower the baby in kisses also. The main reason is you could unknowingly pass on germs, like a cold that hasn’t quite set in. There have been several stories in the media about babies becoming seriously ill after being kissed by a visitor with a cold sore.
8. Don’t come with a sniffly nose.
While we’re on the topic of illness. If you are sick or have been sick recently, stay away until you are healthy. Maybe organize a video call in the meantime.
9 Do keep it short.
Recovering from birth, learning to feed, not showering for days … it’s exhausting. Limit your visit to 30 minutes. Give the new mum a gentle hug, make her a cup of tea, let her talk - or complain - if she wants to, and then leave. Ask for nothing, including to hold the baby.
If you offer to do some housework for her, or watch the baby while she showers, you can stay until your task is done.
10. Offer to help
Be specific. Simply offering to help creates more work because it forces the new mum to think about what help she needs. Offer to tidy the kitchen, clean the bathroom, fold laundry, walk the dog, or even take an older child out to the park to give them a break and fresh air.
11. Bring food, not flowers
Don’t ask, just bring. Remember mum will need energy, hydration and if she is breastfeeding there are foods to help her build up her supply. If you know what her favorite foods are, or something she was craving (and couldn’t have) during pregnancy bring it with you.
If you bring dinner, make sure it can be frozen and it is in an oven-proof container so it can be cooked or reheated. Don’t put food in a container you want to be returned to you. The last thing tired parents need to worry about is washing and returning your favourite lasagne dish.
12. Hold off on gifts.
If you’re visiting them in hospital, leave the gifts and flowers for a visit once the family settles in at home. Being discharged from the hospital is a long, drawn-out stress without all the extras to carry. Also, some hospitals have rules about flowers and balloons because of allergies.
13. Greet everyone
It’s a big adjustment for everyone, including older children, when this is their first sibling. It becomes even harder when everyone comes to the house, and ignores them while fussing over the baby.
When you arrive make time for the older child. Perhaps bring them a small gift, and if they would like a cuddle give them one.
14. Remember them in the weeks and months after birth.
Everyone tends to pounce on families straight after birth. However, the time they most need the support and visits is in the weeks and months after the birth.
Consider sending some nappies, some more meals, or offering to babysit a few weeks or months after birth.
15. Leave your children at home.
Most hospitals have strict rules about bringing children to visit newborn babies. Usually, only siblings are allowed.
If you are visiting at home, new parents don’t need the added stress of your child touching and climbing on everything.
Don’t offer your option or unsolicited advice. Show interest in the new mother by asking her questions, and listening.
When a mother spends every waking moment with her newborn, she craves grown-up conversation. So, ask her: How are you doing? How was the labor? Ask … and then listen. Sometimes a big emotional dump of feelings, grumbles, experiences, and emotions is just what the doctor ordered.
If she does ask you something, give good advice, stay away from the negatives and finish on a positive.
Keep these things in mind, and new parents will love you for it!
Cover image by @mumazed