A few days ago, I opened up a WeChat message to see one of the most heartwarming of all things to see; a photo of a newborn. A friend of the family had just given birth to a beautiful baby boy. I too not long ago became a first-time parent, and so the usual questions ensued: What’s his name? How was the birth? How are you feeling? Do you need anything?
Naturally, one of the first things that may cross your mind when a friend or family member has welcomed a new addition to their clan is when you can arrange a time to meet the little one. You are naturally excited to meet the long-awaited newborn but slow your roll! There are a few things we should all bear in mind, so you will be welcome to visit once again.
These eight crucial rules for visiting a newborn were all very important to me when my boy first arrived, and thankfully, I didn’t have to repeat or remind anyone about the expected etiquette. Read these to make sure no one has to remind you!
Do not come unannounced
Ok. This needs to be stressed. For the first few days and even weeks after my baby was born, I was walking around bare-chested with Lux hanging from one boob while a pump hung from the other. You’ve lost all notion of what it is to get dressed in the morning, house chores are last on the agenda, bags have begun to take permanent residence under your eyes as you’ve not slept a wink, and the only person you can just about face is the little human that’s waiting to be lavishly doted on.
Please for the love of God don’t turn up unannounced to the home of parents who are taking time to adjust to baby finally being home. Don’t stress the new parents by visiting without first calling ahead to make arrangements, or better still, wait to be invited.
Be mindful of germs
Disinfectant was placed in every room in our apartment when our baby boy arrived. I had hand sanitizers in every bag, and a bottle of Dettol hand cleanser was placed by every sink and faucet. New moms are always extra careful when it comes to their newborns, and we are very sensitive about protecting our little ones from unnecessary exposure to disease or infection. Avoid visiting if you are sick or have been around someone who is. Unless given permission to do so, do not bring the kids, even if healthy as they may expose a newborn to germs. As soon as you arrive please take off your shoes and ask where the washroom is. Wash your hands and then by all means ask if you can have a cuddle with the baby.
Bring snacks, food, drinks, or a simple token
New parents are way too busy to cook, so it’s highly recommended that you bring along something that’s ready for consumption or something that can be heated up for later. If you are feeling adventurous and have the skill, bring a bag of ingredients so that you can cook the extremely tired family a simple meal. Snacks were always welcome in my home (the salty and sweet kind). Bring goodies for the parents to rummage through. Trust me, it will feel like Christmas. I was breastfeeding, so if you’re aware that this is the situation, in solidarity, try not to bring over alcohol to share with daddy, and instead opt for a fancy soft drink that momma can pour into a wine glass. Chin, Chin!
Offer to help if you can
If you’re not already aware, a visit to the home of a new mom is an awesome opportunity to ask if she needs any help. If confident enough, why not let mom catch up on some sleep and you take over baby duties while she has a quick catnap. It’s likely that she hasn’t slept through the night since bringing baby home. Alternatively, small gestures, like washing the dishes, looking after the little one while mom gets on with something of her choice, or tidying up the house, will be much appreciated. Always ask permission first, and depending on the mom, she may just want you to stick the kettle on and pass her the TV remote!
Visit only if it’s convenient for the parents
Showing up announced is different to trying to arrange a visit during your free time. Be flexible and willing to adjust your visiting schedule if the parents request so. Be extra sensitive to the whirlwind schedule that has become life for new parents. If they tell you that you can’t visit on a specific day that doesn’t mean they don’t want you to visit at all. Respect their wishes and put their schedule first. This is a good rule for moving forward in general. When kids come along, schedules get manic. Work with the changing tides. Work with mom and dad!
Do not overstay
I don’t know about you, but I’ve never been good with awkward over stayer’s at the best of times, never mind when your body has just gone through the most strenuous of experiences you will ever encounter, and you’re physically, emotionally, and mentally exhausted. A new parent can just about handle the company of a visitor for no more than an hour. Unless asked to stay longer, avoid wearing out your welcome. Your visit is a lovely gesture and is appreciated, however, the parents are getting themselves and baby into a new routine. They may want to put baby down or have some extra quiet time alone.
Do not comment on the mom’s physical appearance
A new mom may have gained weight after giving birth. We women are already under microscopic societal scrutiny and an immense amount of pressure when it comes to our weight and other prescribed beauty standards. This can be compounded during and after pregnancy. Keep your opinions to yourself, and if you don’t have anything nice and reassuring to say, don’t say anything at all.
Do not comment on the chosen name for baby
Many parents wrestle for months when trying to come up with the perfect name for their unborn child. In some cases, the naming of a child has been a source of great concern even before conception! Parents may have toyed with an idea for a name for an extended period of time, argued over, and vetoed suggestions, so the last thing they need is for anyone to offer their unwelcome negative two-cents about their baby’s name. Quite frankly it’s not your business and could be anything from a beloved name from a member of the family, living or deceased, to a name that represents a significant place or time. Again, if you have nothing nice to say, say nothing at all.
Here’s to all the little newborns out there and better visiting etiquette!
Photos: Nicole Bonnah