A Manual for Visiting a Family with a New Baby

New babies are wonderful things.  They are cute and cuddly, so it’s fair that you will want to see and hold the new baby as early as possible.  Some people get more leeway than others (like grandparents).  But no matter who you are, there are rules that you should abide by so your visit creates the least amount of stress for the new parents as possible:

  • Wait for the new parents’ permission to visit AFTER the baby is born.  Do not spend the months leading up to the birth asking when you can see the baby.  Unless you live really far away where your visit hinges on the purchase of plane tickets, wait until the baby is born before inviting yourself over.
  • If the new family offers to cook a meal, the proper response should be “why don’t we stop somewhere on the way over and grab food so you don’t have to cook?”  If stopping for food isn’t an option, the next appropriate response should be “whatever is easiest.”  If your host offers 3 menu options, don’t say “all of it.”  Most new parents stock their kitchen so they can limit the number of errands they have to run in the first few weeks of baby’s arrival.  Asking them to cook a feast for you depletes their inventory and destroys their kitchen.
  • Clean up after yourself.  If eating was part of your visit, offer to clean up the kitchen.  Rinse dishes, or at the very least take your dirty dishes to the sink.
  • Whether it’s the family’s first or fiftieth baby, try to be productive while you are in their home.  Even if a new mom has done it all before, giving birth is a lot of work and new babies are exhausting.  Having visitors come over only adds to the stress.  Try to provide food or help outside of just holding the baby.
  • Limit your stay.  Some family members will need to travel to visit the baby and will want to stay longer to make their trip worth it.  But if you’re not a grandparent, a single visit shouldn’t last longer than 4 hours.  If your visit is approaching the length of a work day, it’s too long.  If you’ve traveled to visit, leave the house for a couple of hours and come back.  Staying overnight? Try to find something to do to get yourself out of the house for a bit.  If you’re local, your visits should be even shorter as you will likely see the baby more often.
  • Most new mothers know you are coming over to hold her baby.  Don’t make the first thing out of your mouth “can I hold him/her?”.  There’s probably no need.
  • A lot of new mothers will probably feel weird asking for her baby back.  Make it easier on her by offering if you’ve held the baby for more than 30 minutes.  If the mother does ask for her baby back, hand the child over.  Comments such as “you get to hold him/her all the time” are not appropriate.  Parents (especially moms) with new babies should be holding their babies all the time.
  • Don’t order the mom to rest while you are in her house.  If a new mom looks like she needs rest, you should probably leave.  It’ll be easier for her to relax if she doesn’t feel like a hostess.
  • If you know someone else is planning to visit the same weekend, schedule another day to come.  Don’t make new parents host multiple days in a row.
  • Finally – and this is a big one here – never, under any circumstances, suggest that the new parents should be well-rested because it seems like their new baby sleeps a lot.  Holding my child for 20 minutes while he is asleep does not make you an expert.  Oh, and by the way, newborns need to eat every 3 hours.  So even if a baby sleeps every minute of the day that he is not eating, the mom is still only sleeping for 3 hours at a time.
Having a new baby in the family is exciting, but exhausting.  Try to be respectful when you visit a new parent’s home.  Even if they seem fine and feeling up for company, always proceed with the understanding that they are running on little sleep and aren’t operating at 100%.