Like everything with motherhood and fatherhood too, this first learning phase is different for every family. The first few weeks with a new child is a delicate, wonderful and often challenging time, so it’s your job to support her as best you can. With that in mind, I put together a few helpful tips to help you navigate your visit…
1. Bring food. Just about everyone knows when visiting new parents, guests should always bring food. I absolutely agree, and while any meal you bring is generous, I suggest things that are easy to eat (pizza, sandwiches, etc.). Try to avoid fussy foods or anything that requires more than one hand. The goal is always to keep it simple and easy. And for what it’s worth: wine is easy too. Just sayin’…
2. …And laundry detergent! I would take the generosity one step further: bring laundry detergent too! New families do a mind-bending amount of laundry. While selecting a detergent for someone strangely feels much more intimate than bringing them a meal, I guarantee they will appreciate the gesture (I suggest baby-friendly detergents like Honest Company or Babyganics). If not laundry detergent, consider picking up some other household item that quickly vanishes (paper towels, water bottles, etc.). Running errands is the last thing on a new parent’s mind, so if you take that little extra time, it will mean more than you know.
3. Plan your visit ahead of time. It should go without saying that you should never show up unannounced. Hosting guests in your home (or hospital room) is a lot of pressure on a new mama. Call or text beforehand, and be flexible to her schedule. Above all, your visit needs to be convenient for the new family. That said, if you happen to be in the neighborhood, I’m a fan of dropping off a little snack for the new mama, but I leave it at the front door and text her after I’ve already left. Good friends show up, but better friends know when to leave.
4. Focus on the mama. Ask her how she’s feeling, tell her how amazing she’s doing and try not to compare your experience to hers. New mamas deserve some TLC, so take the opportunity to concentrate on her! And as with most things having to do with motherhood, keep your opinions to yourself. Unless your opinion is that she’s a superhero and you are so proud of her, in which case, share away!
5. Don’t be surprised if she’s not overjoyed. A new mom has just had her world flipped upside down, and it can often be an emotional, exhausting and overwhelming adventure. Remember that just because she’s having a bad day, doesn’t mean she’s not over-the-moon, too. Allow her the chance to share, and never, ever judge. Remind her that feeling overwhelmed is just as normal as feeling “overjoyed,” and that she can be both at the same time. That being said, she may very well want to gush about her new little person, so give her that chance, too!
6. Respect her privacy. Many moms will tell you how quickly they become comfortable breastfeeding in front of people. My best friend lives in London and has no problem feeding her son in public. She doesn’t even bother to cover up (Europe tends to be much more “boob-friendly” in general). However, don’t assume that a new mama wants to feed in front of you—especially in the beginning when breastfeeding wasn’t always easy. If the new mom says she needs to feed, make yourself scarce or cut your visit short.
7. Know when to hold them, and know when to fold them. Most people assume that holding the baby is part of the deal when visiting a new family, but that should never be the expectation. New babies are stronger than you think, but they’re still pretty fragile. Not only are their immune systems still developing, their bodies need much more support than even a 3-month-old. But even if you’re a baby whisperer, a new mama may not be comfortable with anyone holding her newborn… and that’s ok! Instead, make yourself useful by tackling that pile of clean clothes that is just begging to be folded. (Like I said earlier, a new family’s home is basically a laundromat). If the new mama does offer to let you hold her new little person, wash or sanitize your hands before you snuggle.
8. Make sure you’re feeling healthy. Never visit a new mom and baby if you’re feeling the slightest bit under the weather, or even have an inkling that you might be coming down with something. It’s just not worth the risk. I also suggest leaving your own children (if you have them) at home. Kids are total germ pools… even if they look totally fine. Also, younger children can be super loud (I have a two-year-old, so I know this), and babies sleep a lot. It’s not rocket science.
9. Know when to leave. This is tricky because finding that perfect window of time isn’t always easy. For some new parents, they like it short and sweet, while others are more eager to have some company! My suggestion is 45 minutes to an hour. Newborns feed every two hours, more or less, so the new mama probably has scheduled your visit in between that window. If you observe that 45 to 60-minute window, the new mom has time to spend with you and then ideally a bit to do anything she needs to do for herself, her home or the baby before the next feeding.
10. Make yourself useful. A new mama often feels obligated to play hostess to her visitors, so it’s your job to quickly sideline any of those expectations. If the baby is sleeping, ask if the new mama wants to take a quick shower or rest her eyes for a bit while you babysit. If she’s feeding or the baby is awake, I suggest tackling a small household chore, like doing the dishes. She may try to shoo you away, but remind her that your job is to support her… and pour her afternoon wine without judgment.
Bonus: If the new mama has older children, it’s a total pro move to bring the new big sister or brother a little present, too. There is so much attention on the baby, so it can be a challenging transition for the older siblings. It’s also a surefire way to land at the top of the “Favorite Auntie” list.
Ultimately, just be sensitive to the new family, which I’m sure you will be. After all, you just read a blog post on the etiquette of visiting a new mom.
Let me know what I missed!
Share your suggestions and tips in the comment section below.
This article first appeared on LaurenConrad.com on June 29th