Baby Etiquette 101: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Visiting Newborns

Written by

Rebekah Cook

9:00 am
08/10/15

Photography by Maria Del Rio

Welcoming a brand-new baby is so exciting! Whether it’s your best friend, sister, cousin, or co-worker that just gave birth, the news that baby is finally here might have you jumping to find your car keys. But before you go that route, please read these helpful tips on the basics of newborn etiquette. Trust us, the new mama will thank you later.

Be Patient
Instead of bombarding mom with texts and phone calls, simply let her partner/mother/friend, whomever is with mom and baby, know that you’re interested in visiting and leave it at that. Wait for them to give you the go ahead. There’s a long list of grandmas and siblings to accommodate, intimate bonding between the couple and baby that needs to happen, tricky breastfeeding techniques to learn, and sleep to catch up on, so don’t take it personally if she’d prefer to have you wait a day or two.

Prepare Yourself
The birthing process is beautiful, but it’s also extremely exhausting for mom. As soon as baby arrives, it’s ‘go-time’ for mom and sometimes that comes with an environment you may not be expecting. Mom could be going on several hours (or days!) without sleep (and food!). Make sure you’re in a good place when you visit. Even do a short meditation in your car before entering to ensure that you are able to provide a calming presence and get ready for whatever you may experience. If you are visiting shortly after birth, be prepared that you may see blood, a lactation consultant session in action, a baby crying, mom crying, tubes, monitors, breast pumps. Be prepared for anything and be sure to offer a helping hand, a comforting voice, or be able to take the signal that it’s time to go if things are getting stressful. Also, keep your conversation baby- and mom-focused.

Visiting The Hospital
Unless you’ve arranged to do so ahead of time, it’s often best to wait until mom and baby have arrived home to arrange a visit. They are both being monitored around the clock at a hospital, so their sleep is greatly interrupted, and if it was a cesarean birth, mom is extra fragile and it might not be comfortable for her to “play host.” If you are visiting the hospital, however, keep in mind that your visit should be very short, under an hour. Ask the front desk for the room number instead of bothering the new parents for it and remember that many hospitals require ID and even have a list of who is able to visit for security purposes.

Sending Gifts
If mom and baby are at the hospital, remember that any gifts they receive they have to be able to take home, so giant teddy bears or baby gyms are a no-no. Keep in mind that fragrant flowers could be bothersome to mom and baby, so stick to non-stinky varieties if you go the floral route. Great gifts include balloons, healthy food packages, apothecary items such as bath salts, body balms, and chap stick. When in doubt, a card with a gift card or even a lovely note is a wonderful option.

Remember Your Inside Voice
As excited as you may be, try not to squeal, cackle, shout, or talk loudly. Use soft, gentle voices and try to be as calming as possible.

Never Come Empty Handed
When visiting a new family in their home, never come empty handed! Bring a meal, a latte, a cupcake, a pack of diapers or wipes, wine, protein bars, a healthy smoothie, etc. You’ll get a huge hug in return!

Don’t Bring Your Kids
As much as your little ones may be excited to meet their new tiny pal, for first visits, it’s best to come solo or with your spouse/partner. Kids add another layer to the mix, whether it be needing your attention, their germ-infested hands, their complete lack of an “inside voice,” the list goes on.

Wash Your Hands
Don’t make mom ask you. As soon as you walk in the door, find the closest sink and wash your hands.

Check Your Health
If you’re sick, your partner’s sick, your kids are sick, your dog is sick—stay home. The last thing a new mom needs is a cold or a newborn with a cold. If you’re ill or someone in your family is ill, it’s best to wait until you’re in the clear to visit. Mom will be grateful you had her family’s best interest in mind. Some moms might even ask that friends get key vaccinations (most often: the whooping cough vaccine) before visiting the baby. Note that this isn’t something you’ll be negotiating with her. If she feels strongly about the vaccination, it could be a firm requirement before a visitation.

Remember Why You Are There
Your job is to congratulate and support, not to dole out advice to a mom who doesn’t want (or need) it (unless she asks for it). To say new moms feel overwhelmed is an understatement and you wanting to help is amazing! She will mostly likely call on you down the road, but in the first couple of days, zip it and smile.

Don’t Try A Group Selfie
Though you may be eager to post a pic of the newborn and mom to your feed, mom might not want you to for a few reasons. Some people do not want to share photos of their kids on social media for privacy’s sake. Also, mom may be sleep deprived or just not feeling photo-ready herself. Instead, try to be present and enjoy the company in front of you. If you snap a picture, keep it to yourself or ask permission before you post.

Put Your Cell On Silent
If mom is working on nursing or baby is crying, the last thing they need to hear is your Taylor Swift ringtone or text notifications. Keep your phone on silent and in your purse.

Don’t Wear Perfume
The surge of hormones that occurs in new moms after giving birth may cause them to be sensitive or nauseous with certain smells. Babies can also be sensitive to certain scents and fragrances. Plus, there’s nothing worst than smelling someone else’s perfume (or aftershave) on a baby hours after they’ve gone home. Skip the perfume and cologne that day.

Don’t Expect To Hold The Baby
The baby may be sleeping, upset, nursing, etc. There are plenty of reasons why you may not get to hold the newborn on your first visit. Relax. You’ll get to soon enough. Spend your time there listening to mom and congratulating her on a job well done!

Make Yourself Useful
See some dirty dishes in the sink, toys that need to be put away, mail at the door? Get to work! There are plenty of ways to help a new mom that she will be so thankful for. Check out our list of 20+ helpful ideas right here.

Don’t Forget About Dad
This is an exciting time for dads and partners, too! Don’t forget to bring them a gift, such as cigars, wine, whiskey, etc. (check out our laundry list of new-dad presents here!). Make sure if you’re bringing food or a treat that you have enough for both parents (or any other family members). Above all, ask them how they are feeling! Chances are, it’s a lot of emotions. They aren’t the ones who’ve been carrying this thing around for nine months, so a lot of times, the delivery offers a tidal wave of realities. A listening ear or a walk around the block is a wonderful gift to give.

Have any other tips when visiting newborns? We’d love to hear your thoughts on what was and wasn’t helpful when receiving guests as a new mother in our comments below!

Leave a Comment

39 comments

Dianne Hoffman

Too many rules and regulations. Just mellow out, be happy, relax and enjoy you new baby.

Renette E Horowitz

wow wish we had a article like this in our times Hospital visits to me is a big No No

Dena

If you’re going to bring a gift for the new baby, it’s also a great idea to bring a gift for the older siblings. Especially if they’re old enough to understand baby is getting gifts and they’re not. It’ll make the older sibling feel like they’re not forgotten or being replaced.

Peter

My wife just gave birth and all these points are so valid, i seear this should be a class in achool, people dont really understand how exhausting it is

Wendy turner

I had 4 children and I have never read anything so rude or obnoxious ever. When someone comes to visit you and offer best wishes be gracious. Let them cuddle your new baby. Babies are exciting and good news in this world of bad news. Don’t expect gifts or food. I do always take food to a new family but it is not mandatory. No one owes you a meal. I always was just glad to have some adult company. I also offered food to my visitors. When did having babies get so me centred. Women have been have babies for centuries and when did they become so entitled

    Terri

    I agree. This is so rude on so many levels. I never shut anyone out after bringing each one of mine home. I did not care what my hair looked like, if I were in my gown etc. I did ask that hands be washed first, immediate cousin’s were welcomed as long as they were well. I guess, I wanted to share my children with my family. I think it is somewhat selfish to expect gifts etc but ohh wait we can’t have you over, the house is a wreck.
    Get over yourself.

      Jaclyn

      I think to read this article and to just think it’s rude and selfish is a bit close minded. Your situation ( health and help at home ) might be different than others. This article isn’t saying that you should expect gifts from visitors but it is telling you how to set boundaries if you need so and in my opinion many moms do. There’s NOTHING wrong with wanting some private hours with the Baby you’ve been carrying and wanting to meet for months. There’s nothing wrong with wanting to rest. I delivered at a birthing center , I was sent home after just an Handful of hours after delivery and just a couple of hours after getting stitched up. All I wanted was to rest and be with baby. Family followed us home. They carried my baby for hours. I felt like Part of me was missing. When they left almost three hours later baby who had been asleep all this time woke up. I who had been up since 4:30 am had not slept one bit. Also I won’t forget when the doctor had just finished stitching me and the nurse had sent me to use the restroom and to change. I was in pain everything was so emotional. I dressed and cried. I collected myself and walked out thinking I would be surrounded by my husband and my baby yet I walked out to see my mil picking up the baby. She was oblivious to what had just happened but it was not the moment I needed. After like 20 min we were able to tell her we needed time alone since we were to have a herbal bath ( offered at birthing centers). We were able to have a peaceful loving bonding time with the baby. It’s one of the moments I cherish the most.

Jennifer

After having my first, I experienced how entitled and rude some family and friends could be. Next time I am implementing some rules so that I can relax and have some peace. If you haven’t experienced a family like my husband’s you won’t understand how necessary it is!

MichelleD

As a mother of 4 and my husband back to work, I would have been so grateful for a meal brought to our home! One of my dear coworkers came over one morning a week after my last baby was born to watch all the children so I could go grocery shopping, what a godsend!

Guide for Friends & Family for a New Mom and Dad – The Vintage Vista

[…] Be patient. It is not surprising that you will want to visit to see the little bundle of joy as soon as possible! Let the new parents know you are interested, but don’t be pushy about it. They are exhausted, may have some medical things going on you don’t know about, and likely have lots of family in town. They will definitely let you know if they need help and are able to have you over. (Source: Mother Magazine) […]

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[…] and family should be able to respect that. Of course it’s nice if they are excited to come and visit your brand new baby, but be sure to give yourself some space first. Even if that means delaying sending out the ‘new […]

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