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Are there rules for visiting a newborn or new parents? You bet there are!
In this post, I’m going to “lay down the law” so that new moms and dads get the rest and support they so desperately need!
As a postpartum doula, I frequently help new parents to set some boundaries with visitors and family. I hope this post empowers you to advocate for yourself and set the boundaries that will be helpful for your family.
A Note to New Parents:
If you are expecting a new baby, you may already be feeling anxious about having visitors. That’s understandable. You are not alone!
Many new parents prefer to wait on having visitors and that’s totally fine! Some new parents are concerned about their baby being exposed to sickness, especially during the winter months. Here are some great ideas for keeping your newborn healthy!
It’s a good idea to discuss your thoughts about visitors with your partner before your baby is born. It’s also important that you are both on the same page. Here are some questions to consider:
Do you want to limit visitors in the hospital? Do you prefer to be choosy about who visits at first? How about asking people to wait a week or more after you arrive home? These are perfectly reasonable requests!
What about etiquette or rules for visiting a newborn and new parents? Is there such a thing? Yup! There definitely is!
And you can share these rules with potential visitors if that’s helpful for you. Read on…
A Note to Visitors:
If you are a friend or relative of new parents, please remember that they are extremely exhausted and most likely overwhelmed. Not only are they likely recovering from a long sleepless labor or hospital stay, but they have probably been awake several times each night to feed their newborn.
Although most new parents are very excited and proud to show off their new baby, they need your help as well. Your visit should be helpful and not make extra work for the new parents. Period.
I recently came across this dialog on social media and I thought it was a humorous, but great example of what I mean:
Friend: “When can I come visit the baby?”
New Mom: “2 am would be really helpful!”
Get the idea? New moms need help. Although you are excited to see the new baby and visit the new mother, before you do so, take a look at these rules for visiting a newborn below. The new parents will be so glad you did!
25 Rules for Visiting a Newborn
1. Always Schedule the Time with the New Parents
Please don’t ever show up unannounced! This is probably the worst thing you could ever do to a new mother. Enough said!
2. Bring Food!
There are so many adjustments for new parents during the early weeks, that fixing meals is often the last thing they have time for. A home-cooked meal will mean the world to them! If you are not a cook, then consider grabbing some ready-made meals for them: a deli pizza or entree, rotisserie chicken or some restaurant food are some great ideas.
Another great food idea is healthy snacks for a breastfeeding mother that she can eat one-handed: cut up cheese and cracker plate, veggie plate, cut up fruit, chips and hummus, etc.
3. Wash Your Hands
A newborn’s immune system is immature. Anytime a newborn gets sick, it can be a serious thing.
Not only that, but the exhausted, run-down parents are much more likely to catch a cold or illness too!
4. Never Come Sick
Even a “little cold” can be a big deal for a family with a newborn. If you are sick, please be considerate. Wait until you are better!
5. Keep Your Advice to Yourself
New moms get so much unsolicited advice. It is so overwhelming for them. Please keep your advice to yourself unless you are asked for it!
6. Don’t Visit Unless You are Willing to Help!
Always offer to help out. There is usually lots to do! A new mother may be out of touch with what needs to be done, so feel free to offer suggestions: laundry, wash dishes, clean the bathroom, tidy up the kitchen, empty the garbage, recycling or diaper pail, walk the dog, return unwanted baby gifts, address thank you cards… look around… I bet you’ll notice something!
Another idea? Before your visit, text mom or dad to see if there is anything you can pick up for them at the store on your way over! They will LOVE you for that!
7. Compliment the New Mom
A new mother is often struggling with insecurities that are new or overwhelming. She often feels fat, ugly, inadequate, anxious, tired, moody, depressed… Pay her a sincere heart-felt compliment. It will make her day!
If you really want to show her some love, check out these practical new mom gift ideas!
8. Don’t Create More Work
When visiting a newborn and new parents, don’t expect to be waited on or served. In fact, make sure that you clean up after yourself, too.
For example, if you bring a gift for the mom or baby, make sure that you clean up the wrapping paper. Wash your own cup or dish if appropriate.
9. Respect the New Parents’ Wishes
New parents may have specific requests regarding the visit. Please honor their requests and respect their wishes, even if you don’t understand or agree.
10. Never Share on Social Media
Don’t ever share a picture of the baby or family on social media without their permission. This is their news to share so please be respectful of that.
11. Don’t Ask Too Many Questions
Some new mothers are more private about what they share. If she doesn’t offer detailed information about the birth or how’s she’s feeling, don’t ask.
She may need time before sharing, especially if the birth was traumatic or difficult.
In addition, new mothers are often struggling emotionally. They can even be confused by how they feel. Time will usually help them, so it’s best not to pry!
If, however, they want to talk and process, listen to their birth story. It’s a great way to care for a new mother!
12. Don’t Ignore Older Siblings or Pets
When visiting a newborn, make a point to greet and congratulate the big brother or sister. Even bringing a sibling gift would be appropriate and helpful!
Many older siblings (and pets) will be feeling left out or displaced. Special attention will be extremely helpful and appreciated by the baby’s parents!
Pro-Tip: Squat down at their level when talking to them. Children and pets love it when we greet them face-to-face!
13. Don’t Kiss the Baby
This is really uncomfortable for most new parents. Please don’t do it unless you are sure it’s okay. Even if you ask, you may make the parents feel obligated to agree.
14. Don’t Ignore Feeding Cues
If you are holding a baby who is awake, you will probably notice some early feeding cues such as opening his mouth searching for food, sucking on his fingers, smacking his lips etc. These are early feeding cues. Time to give the baby back to mom before he starts to cry!
15. Don’t Expect to Hold the Baby
Although you probably will get a chance to hold the baby, don’t expect that will always be the case.
During your visit, the baby may be fussy, nursing, or sleeping. Some babies are extremely sensitive to being overstimulated and the parents might have just spent hours calming down a fussy or colicky baby. Always ask. Don’t assume.
16. Don’t Assume it’s Okay to Bring Your Kids
Some new parents are just not “up” for lots of noise or activity. Excess stimulation is also not so great for a newborn!
Consider offering to visit without young children. Some new parents may also be anxious about the baby catching a cold, but afraid to be honest with you. It’s always worth making the offer to see how they feel. Invite them to be completely honest with you!
17. Don’t Drink Hot Drinks While Holding the Baby
This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people don’t think about this one. Drinking hot tea while holding a baby is just not worth the risk and will definitely make the new parents uneasy!
18. Don’t Smell Like Smoke or Heavy Perfume
Most new parents will be very concerned about this one. If you are a smoker, please make sure that you have clean, smoke-free clothing before visiting a newborn.
Save the perfume or strong cologne for another time, too. Many people, especially babies, are extremely sensitive to smoke, strong perfumes and scents.
19. Don’t Wake the Baby!
Don’t expect to see a newborn awake. They need to sleep a lot. If they are awake, they usually need to eat, so give the poor mama a break and let him sleep!
20. Don’t Stare During Breastfeeding
If your visit takes place over a breastfeeding session, make sure that you offer to leave the room or at least inquire about the mother’s comfort level. By all means… don’t stare!
If you are uncomfortable, this is a great time to wander into the kitchen and do some chores!
21. Don’t be Loud!
Not only are tired parents not going to appreciate lots of noise, but newborns easily startle. Keep your voice down and don’t irritate new parents by scaring their new baby.
22. Don’t Forget About Dad
Although most dads won’t admit it, they can often feel left out. They may not even realize how they feel.
When visiting a newborn and new mom, try to acknowledge the new dad. Congratulate him! Bring him a cigar, beer, or new dad gift. Offer to give him a break. Many new dads would welcome a chance to take a break!
23. Don’t Ask if the Baby is Sleeping Through the Night!
Newborns don’t sleep through the night. They need to eat often, so please don’t ask that question! It only makes new parents feel anxious that something may be wrong with their baby.
Before visiting a newborn, please read this post to get up to speed on newborn sleep!
24. Don’t Be Surprised or Offended if the New Mother is Emotional, Anxious or Upset
A new mother is often emotional or anxious during the early weeks after childbirth. The hormones in her body (and lack of sleep) are affecting her mood. Please don’t be surprised or take it personally. It takes a while for new mothers to learn to relax and feel confident with their new role.
Please be patient and encouraging! Whatever you do, do not critique her or tell her how to mother. (Unless she asks!) Allow her to learn and grow as a mother. 🙂
25. Don’t Stay Too Long
Don’t overstay your welcome! Unless you are doing chores, you should limit your visit to about a half hour or so.
The new parents may be too polite to ask you to leave, but watch for signs of them getting tired, disinterested in the conversation or needing to eat or sleep. If the baby is sleeping, they will probably want to nap as well!
Do you have any other suggestions or “rules” that you would recommend when visiting a newborn? Please share in the comments!