- Call ahead and be flexible! You want to run right down to the hospital and check out that fresh human, but some moms might need some space that first day or so. A long labor, an unexpected c-section or just the hormones that come along with giving birth can make some moms want to hole up and be alone with the new bubs. “Would you like some company or should I wait until you’re home and settled?” is a great way to phrase it, or consider a text like:
- Bring food. Baby gifts are awesome and always appreciated, but when you’re planning to visit (if the mom’s home), ask about bringing a meal, either for then or later. “How about I stop by at 5 – do you guys like pizza? I could bring a couple!” Or “I’m gonna pick up one of those rotisserie chickens on my way over for you to stick in the fridge, what sides do you want with it?” If they are on a special diet or insist they don’t want or need any more food, ask if there’s something specific you can pick up on your way over. It will be greatly appreciated.
- Keep the visit brief. A new mom will tire quickly and many of us are too polite to ask someone to leave. Some moms love a good long chat, but most moms will start to fade just past the 30 minute mark, so keep an eye on the clock and the mom. You can always come back again, if you don’t overstay your welcome!
- Remember that the mom is a person, too. It’s quite a shock for the first time mom who goes from being the center of attention to the person who just happens to bring the baby around! All too often moms will say that once they had the baby, no one ever asked them how they were again; it’s all “Where’s the baby? How is the baby?” Sure, you’re there to check out this new person, but spend some time remembering why you care about this baby to begin with; it’s not a stranger’s kid.
-Take a small gift for older children, if there are any. A toy from the dollar store or a coloring book from the grocery store will help the siblings know they haven’t been forgotten.
-Respect that some nursing moms may not be comfortable with an audience. Nursing is hard the first few weeks. It can feel like you’re trying to perform topless Cirque du Soliel while your baby screams at you. Even experienced moms have to relearn this art, and that often is something best done in private.
-Go if you have any sort of illness, even if it’s mild. Whooping cough can seem like a minor cold in adults but can be fatal to infants. Fevers, congestion, or any little ailment can be much more serious for a tiny newborn than it is to you, so if you’re not sure, wait until you’re better. I promise the baby will still be adorable next week, and your friend will really, really appreciate you not spraying germs on her baby.
-Expect to be waited on or entertained. No matter what etiquette might say about visitors, your host isn’t there to get you a drink or keep your kids amused.
-Hold the baby and suggest work. It’s great to offer to take care of the baby while the mom naps or showers, if you’re that close to her. But showing up and offering to hold the baby so the mom can catch up on chores? That’s a no-no (and yes, it happens. All the time.) Whether you’re the new Grandma or the mom’s bestie, plopping on the couch and offering to cuddle the baby so the new mom can do dishes is a one way ticket to her bad side. If you notice something needs to be done, offer to do it, or keep your mouth shut. “Hey, would you like to me to run the vacuum before I go? I know that when I was postpartum, I hated to do that.”
Enjoy the new mom and baby and use these tips to help them feel the love. Sniff some of that new baby smell for us!