Although I have plenty of friends with little kids, I have never felt the urge to visit them straight out of hospital. This may be a guy thing or I just don’t think much of other people’s newborns.
As if becoming parents wasn’t hectic enough, now people want to visit us?! Depending on you, this can be a curse or blessing in disguise.
We both have been home with our new baby for almost 3 weeks by now. Although this may sound like a vacation to non-parents, believe me when I say it hasn’t been one. We’re tired, we’re also happy, overwhelmed, fascinated, sleep-deprived, scared and proud, but mostly tired. Another thing that I’ve noticed – I’m very protective of our baby-girl!
When it comes to visiting us, we don’t want to overstimulate our colicky baby with too many new smells and faces, loud sounds, too much bouncing around so everyone can cuddle her, and we don’t even want to think about her catching any germs. Our nights are erratic enough even without all of this.
With that being said – we want you to visit us. This is a big deal for our family. We’re proud, heck we made a baby together! However we want you to visit us in our terms (for now).
I don’t want this boundary-setting to appear ungrateful or rude and I’m not pointing any fingers. I just want to enjoy the time with our friends, and help them understand our perspective in this matter.
My wife, the people-pleaser she is, would have very difficult time in conveying these ideas to family and friends, so here are my, brand new father’s, DO’S & DON’TS when visiting us and our newborn.
Some of these may seem like common sense, but bear with me here!
Visit if you’re sick
You may not be able to control whether you get sick or not, but you can cancel your appointment to meet the new baby. I will choose a healthy baby over a sick visitor every time. Our new arrival hasn’t yet built her immune system, so if in doubt, wait a week or two. It’s true that babies grow up fast, but she won’t leave for college any time soon.
Do not smoke before or during the visit, even outside. That’s because toxins will stay on your breath and clothing after smoking, and is bad for the baby’s health. Apparently they call it “third hand smoking”. When visiting a newborn, make sure you are wearing fresh and clean clothes.
Wear a (lot of) perfume
Heavy perfume is an irritant and can bother an infant. You’re not going on a first date with the guy/girl of your dreams. So, don’t douse yourself in Chanel No5 or the latest Hugo Boss.
Newborns might break out when they are held by someone with a lot of synthetic perfume on. The fragrance portion of most perfumes are chemicals that are endocrine disruptors that do have the potential (however small) to interfere with the baby’s hormonal development. Also, you never know what they are allergic to.
Drink hot drinks while holding the baby
Most new parents are paranoid about hurting their baby and the sight of a friend sipping a boiling hot tea over the head of your newborn baby can be quite terrifying. I don’t forbid you to have a cup of tea, but don’t do it while holding our baby.
Give unsolicited advice
I’m not exaggerating when I’m saying that as a brand new parents we hear “parenting advice” more often that we do our baby crying. And she does cry!
EVERYBODY has advice! If you are asked for advice, please share your experience. If not, please don’t (for now), because it’s probably contradicting with another well-meaning “expert” and can be more confusing than helpful. Plus, we’re probably functioning only on very few hours of sleep and are also probably hyper-sensitive and likely still wearing the same sweatpants we wore last week.
Hormones and pushy people just don’t mix well.
Pick up the baby
A lot of the parents are more than willing to give the baby to you, so they can get a moment to rest. When baby starts to cry, it’s time to hand the baby back to the parents, it’s likely that they know their baby’s needs better than anyone else.
However, don’t pick up the baby without the parents’ permission. It’s just common sense.
Expect us to feed you
As new parents, most of the time we’re struggling to feed ourselves. Even if we have some food, everything you won’t eat is our tomorrow’s leftovers. The chances are that even if you’ll be offered a cup of tea, you might have to help yourself to it. On the other hand if you bring food with you we might even let you have some.
Ask me to wake the baby for you
I know you came to see the baby not the parents. You may want to get a sniff of that newborn’s smell, be desperate to see those beautiful big eyes, the adorable toothless smile or just to cuddle with the baby. But it isn’t happening if the baby’s sleeping. It doesn’t matter if you drove a long way to come and visit. We may just have spent 1-2 hours to finally get her to sleep.
Newborns sleep easily 2/3 of a day, and it’s important for their development. And her parents need every break they can get to catch up with sleep or chores.
Be staring during breastfeeding
I’ve been guilty of this myself in the past. Apparently babies don’t care if the time is appropriate and are very vocal to express that.
Although, breastfeeding is natural (for parents and their baby), MJ (my wife) will not flash her breast in front of you. However, if she does happen to feed the baby under a nursing scarf, be cool with it. Carry on as if nothing is happening, keep talking and keep the eye contact.
Allow the parents to decide when to visit and for how long
When visiting a new baby, understand downtime is in demand. Even though newborns pretty much sleep most of the time; with feedings, changing the diapers, burping and trying to get the baby to sleep 24/7, most parents cannot host guests for hours.
Call and ask what time works best for the new mom and the baby. Some parents may not want visitors during first weeks.
When you get the green light – stick to that time and don’t overstay your welcome. Don’t be surprised if your perfectly planned time turns into a meltdown for new parents.
Wash your hands
This is as basic as it can get. Believe me, it’s awkward for a mom or a dad to have to insist for guests (other grownups) to wash their hands, but you don’t want to be the reason the baby gets sick, do you? Introducing babies to a healthy amount of germs and giving their immune system a work-out is not your job. Give us the peace of mind that when you touch our new baby, you are doing it with the cleanest possible hands.
Help the new family with chores (if appropriate)
The most practical way of showing concern is to help out the new mom, especially if the dad has already gone back to work. Ask her if you can run an errand for her or if she has any chores to catch up with.
There’s plenty of ways one can be helpful: offer to do the dishes, help with folding the clothes, vacuum the floors or if you know how to handle babies, give the mommy a chance to hop in the shower and keep an eye on the little one.
Don’t be shy! These “favors” can go a long way with new parents!
If you’re bringing a gift, make it count
While it is usually customary to take along some gift for the baby, I personally don’t expect it. Just come over, be considerate of us and treat us well!
If you do bring a gift for the baby or the mom, please make it something useful! Ask the mom what she needs or check her registry for lingering purchases.
For example, when planning on bringing some diapers, ask what brand they use, and bring those. For many new parents, the diapers are not all the same. I was surprised too!
When thinking about getting some cute outfits, ask for the right size and please get the season right. I know this ladybug dress looks cute, but the time the weather is warm enough, our baby is way outgrown it!
Say good things about the new mommy
As excited you are to see our newborn, don’t forget the mom. She’s been through quite a bit and needs some pampering too. If there ever was a time to pay someone a compliment, this is it. If you don’t have anything nice to say, just smile, laugh and cry with her.
Disclaimer: new mom has undergone a lot lately. With the getting rid of the belly, she also got rid of the filter. Don’t be surprised if she gives you a step-by-step description of her labor, talks about leaky boobs or the color of the new arrival’s stool. You’ve been warned!
This is how you can earn some brownie points:
Bring food. Bring food that you know we’ll (mostly the new mom) like. Don’t be cheap now; get a lot of it – enough for leftovers. Like I said earlier, for new parents there’s not much free time left. This may-be just our thing, but even with the best planning, cooking a full meal, is truly a luxury. You can easily win the best guest award by not even showing up and bringing a nice meal for two, ringing the doorbell and leaving before we get there!
If this was too long to read, but for some reason you decided to read this, then understand that we’re excited for visitors and want to share these new moving moments in our lives. Also try to understand that while this is a time of joy and sharing, it’s also time of big adjustments to our family.
If you’re able to follow these “simple” guidelines (at least read the subheads), the new mommy and daddy will appreciate your visit and likely ask you to come back again and again to absorb some newborn aura.
I understand that our expectation to have ALL THE GUESTS follow ALL OF THESE GUIDELINES is a little farfetched, but the more you can follow, the more we appreciate you!
For the new parents: don’t be afraid to communicate your wishes to your guests. It does more good than harm since a lot of them don’t know what to do or expect. If you’re too “nice” to ask, post this article (or any other one online) on your Facebook timeline – hopefully they’ll get the hint! Enjoy the company and have fun!