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Yay! The baby is here! You are so very excited about visiting a newborn and fussing over the brand new mama.
But hang on a second. Before you do, make sure you are equipped with some key rules to keep in mind to help the visit be a welcome pleasure, and not a strain.
Here's what to know before visiting a newborn (and a new mama).
1. Remember, it's about them, not you
Your desire to visit a new mom and her baby is out of complete and utter love for them, I know! But sometimes we get so excited to meet the baby and shower the mama with love that we forget that, really, they are the stars of the show.
Even though you're there to visit a newborn, make sure the visit is focused on her (probably not the time to start venting about work). She should not have to entertain or serve you during the visit.
Ask her when the best time for a visit is, and perhaps most importantly, be understanding if she says she doesn't actually want to be visited right now. Which brings us to...
2. Do not be offended
She loves you. She appreciates you offering to visit her, she really does. But she may just not be ready for a visit—and that needs to be okay.
Let her know, before she even has to say it, that you completely understand if she's not ready for a visit yet and that you won't be offended. If she says she's not, try saying, “I completely get it! I'd probably feel the same way! It's a standing offer though. How about we touch base again in a week or two and see how you're feeling then?"
As you know, each woman and birth is completely different. Some women will be craving social interactions, while others will go into hibernation mode. She needs your support to know that that's okay—by doing so, you are setting the precedent that she is allowed and encouraged to care for herself as a mom. What a priceless gift!
3. Call first
No pop-ins when visiting a newborn. Ever. End of discussion.
Beyond that, give her a quick call or send a text to let her know that you're on your way, even when you've scheduled the visit ahead of time. She may be in the middle of a nap or feeding the baby, and she'd really appreciate the advanced notice (and opportunity to say, “EEK, can you give us an extra 15 minutes actually?")
Psst: Score extra points on that call by saying the following: “Hey, I'm on my way! I'll be passing by Starbucks/the grocery store/Target/etc. on my way. Anything I can grab for you?"
4. Be super mindful of germs when visiting a newborn
She is probably very concerned about germs right now—most new moms are—and for good reason. Newborns don't have much immunity, so even a small infection can turn into a problem.
Here's how you can help:
- Do not visit a newborn if you are sick, or have been around sick people (if your child has a bad cold, you should cancel, even if the child isn't coming).
- Don't bring your kids, even if they are not sick, unless she specifically says it's okay. Kids are little germ transporters and it may make her feel concerned to have them there (even though she loves your kids).
- Wash your hands when you arrive, before she asks you to. It can feel a little awkward to have to say, “Hey, sorry, can you wash your hands?" Instead, the moment the door opens, say, “Hi! It's so good to see you! Before I come close to you, can you tell me where I should go wash my hands?"
- Don't kiss the baby. I know, I know! So hard! But unless you know for a fact it's okay with her, avoid the temptation.
5. Bring food!
Nothing says love like lasagna. And chili. And brownies. Make sure you're aware of any dietary restrictions or dislikes, and then go for it! Extra points given for a meal for today and a meal to be frozen for later. Inspiration here!
If you are not a chef, consider a gift card for a local restaurant that delivers, or food delivery service.
6. Be helpful
(And make sure it's help she wants, not help you think she wants.)
Here are some ideas:
- Offer to hold the baby so she can take a nap or shower.
- Ask her for a shopping list you can grab ahead of time.
- Walk her dog.
- Play with the older sibling.
- Offer to clean something without implying that it's messy. Try saying, “Is there anything you need done that's totally stressing you out? I'd love to relieve some stress for you."
7. Be thoughtful with the questions you ask
Again, you are so well-intentioned. But new moms can be sensitive and may perceive the questions you're asking as judgmental without you even realizing it.
Instead of, “Are you breastfeeding?" Try, “He looks so healthy!"
Instead of “Is he sleeping through the night yet?" Try, “I remember how tired I was after I gave birth. Let me know if you want to take a nap!"
Instead of “Did you get an epidural? Try, “Do you feel like talking about your birth at all?"
Instead of “Are you so in love?" Try, “How are you feeling?"
This last one is really important when visiting a newborn—not all moms fall in love with their babies right away. And, they may be silently experiencing postpartum depression or anxiety, which can alter her connection to her baby. Questions that assume that everything is picture-perfect may make her feel guilty and sad.
Instead, ask her with genuine concern how she's feeling. Let her know that you are a safe person to come to if she needs support. If she does tell you she's depressed, urge her to get mental health care right away, or call 911.
8. Do not comment on her house or body
Pretty much the last thing she wants to deal with right now is being self-conscious about a messy house or leaking breasts.
“Yikes, it looks like a tornado came through here!" or “Oh, you're boobs are huge!" or, “You look exhausted" are not okay. It sounds ridiculous, but it happens—a lot.
You could say, “Her nursery is so adorable!" or, “You are absolutely glowing."
9. Do not comment on her parenting choices
This is not the time for unsolicited advice, no matter how much you may know. Decisions like how her baby is being fed, whether or not her son was circumcised, her decision to go back to work or stay home—it's all so personal and probably comes with doubt, no matter what she's decided.
If she asks you, go for it (gently). If not, please don't bring it up.
She will love seeing you, but it's really important not to overstay your welcome. She needs to sleep, bond with her baby, or binge-watch a series on Netflix in peace. Make sure to give her that opportunity.
Bonus! Check back in a few weeks.
She will be flooded by well-wishers and visitors during the weeks right after birth—and then it all goes away, just as motherhood is starting to get really hard. This is when she actually needs you the most.
Set a reminder in your phone for after you visit the newborn and when the baby is 4 weeks old, call her and see if you can stop by again. Ask if she and the baby want to go grab lunch, bring her over another lasagna, or simply tell her you're thinking about her.
She is so lucky to have you in her life. Now go see that visit that newborn (but call first)!
Don't want to show up empty-handed when visiting a newborn? Here are some goodies we love that she might appreciate.
This article was first published on February 25, 2020.