Newborns are delicate creatures. Their mums even more so. Visiting the pair, no matter how closely related or emotionally tight you are with the new parents, requires sensitivity, planning, and adherence to a specific set of rules. This is not the time to show up unannounced, apologise for your coughing toddler, and request a cup of coffee. If you want to maintain your friendship or family bond — and ever be invited back again — follow these guidelines.
And if you're a new mum wondering worried about your loved ones' historic lack of boundaries, send them this list today!
- Schedule your visit in advance, and don't push if Mum's not ready for visitors. Every new mum is different, but most need some one-on-one time with their new addition before they are ready to introduce him or her to the masses. Respect that timeline, whatever it may be, and simply ask if they're ready for visitors. If not, check back a few days or a week later. When the answer's yes, suggest a few times that will work for you and let Mum decide what will work best for her.
- Work around Mum's schedule and be on time. New motherhood is an exhausting, sleep-deprived, overwhelming time. If you've been given the green light on a specific time to visit, it's important to remember that time was probably chosen carefully to fit in both Mum and baby's schedule, so be punctual. Not early, not late.
- Don't stay too long. Smart mums tell visitors in advance that they are only up for a short visit, but even if you're not given a specific window, you should plan on keeping your visit short and sweet. An hour is probably about right, unless Mum begs you to stay longer.
- Take food. As a new mum, it feels almost impossible to shop, cook, or even feed yourself, so taking along a meal — home cooked is fine, but a bag of sandwiches from her favourite cafe is equally acceptable — is a must. Just make it easy on her by not using dishes or Tupperware that need to be returned.
- Wash your hands and ask before you pick up the baby. No matter how irresistible that baby is or how recently you washed your hands before your arrival, just lather up when you get to her house. Also, remember that the baby literally lived inside Mum's body just days before and she's probably still feeling a bit possessive. Be respectful and ask if you can hold the baby. If after a few minutes Mum is looking uncomfortable and itchy to get her back, pass her back immediately.
- Offer to let Mum take a shower or nap. If you're close enough to Mum that she'd feel comfortable leaving you unsupervised with the baby, offer to take over for a while. A quick shower or nap can create a world of difference for a new mom. If she declines, however, don't push it.
- Just say "no" if Mum asks if you want anything to drink or eat. You are there to help and check in, not to be served. If you're really dying of thirst, get up and get that water yourself.
- Don't bring your kids, unless they're healthy and you asked in advance. You'll probably enjoy your visit a lot more if you don't bring your kids and can focus on Mum and baby, but if that's not a possibility, make sure you ask in advance. And if your child wakes up with a fever or a wicked cough on the morning of your visit, reschedule. Also, remember that while you might be totally comfortable with your 6-year-old holding a newborn, that newborn's mum probably is not. Make sure your kids know and respect boundaries as well.
- Don't offer unsolicited advice. If Mum asks questions about breastfeeding, sleep schedules, or postpartum healing, of course, answer with your own experiences and advice, but if not, zip it. This time is about her, not you, so no matter how much her swaddle sucks, keep it to yourself.