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

nina

Seriously awesome list. Having visitors with a new born should be a wonderful time not stress inducing, really helpful tips. xo

Tanie

A quick tip about sending balloons as a gift- many hospitals and birthing centers forbid latex balloons due to the possibility of patients with a latex allergy- if a latex balloon pops it releases a cloud of particles into the air that can cause a severe, even fatal, reaction. If you are unfamiliar with the facility’s policy it’s best to err on the side of caution and choose mylar balloons instead.

Kate

A nice list. I’d also like to add that some new moms and dads may simply not want visitors for a certain period of time (more than just a day or two) after delivery. I myself was overwhelmed at the thought of seeing anyone besides close family after I had my daughter. It took me a few weeks before I was ready to have people over to meet the new baby. Just something to keep in mind :)

    Kelli

    How do I subtly send this to my MIL? :)

      Kate Eschete

      You don’t. You just be honest and have your hubby prepare her ahead of time. The greatest piece of advice that I have for in laws is this: you deal with your family, he deals with his. This prevents the he-said-she-said arguments that can ruin great celebrations like this!! :)

    Molly

    Great list! And absolutely agree with you, Kate. I wanted to live in our happy newborn baby bubble (no company other than immediate family) for a week or two.

Danielle

Don’t forget the other sibling and/or family pet. A couple of our first visitors brought our pup a chew toy along with a baby gift and it was such a nice gesture!

Annie

YES, a thousand times. Friends need to be told these things, pushy family needs to be told these things, Great post. Pregnant ladies, share this.

Megan

My brother in law visited me in the hospital the day of the birth. He glanced at the baby and proceeded to complain about his day including two cancelled meetings. After about an hour I started to complain of cramping and closed my eyes hoping he would get the hint. Nope, he continued to discuss his day and how stressful it was. I wanted to kill him. Some people are so clueless and selfish.

zivar

thank you for this. something to keep in my pocket when our daughter is born this fall.

Yvadney @ Style After Nine

I love this list. It should be printed off and posted on every new mum’s door. I agree something for a sibling helps them not to feel left out, but for me the most important thing is keeping an eye on the clock. Don’t stay for too long, mum will probably want some private family time.

claire

A great list. I love how you say “Put Your Cell On Silent”. I was so noise sensitive after the birth of my daughter and it took a couple of months to get back to normal. Being calm and quiet around new parents is such good advice.

Donna

I have so many issues with this article that I don’t know where to start. Common sense and kindness are all that is necessary when visiting a new baby and this “list” is lacking both. “Do a quick meditation in the car before entering” ???? Tell that to the 3year old sibling or 85 year old grandma. This unnecessarily dramatizes a normal and generally happy occasion in life. Good heavens, spewing this stuff to first time new moms is only going to increase anxiety levels. Yes, I have 4 children, 2 grandchildren, tons of nieces and nephews and another grandchild on the way.

    Nicole

    …and clearly you no longer remember the immediate post-partum period!

    Nadia

    Not everything on this list is perfect, but it raises some great points. You may have a lot of kids- but how many years has it been since you’ve actually been in the “new mom” position? People tend to forget those emotions over time. Some people legitimately don’t think about things on this list (particularly the advice giving and respecting time) because of their shared excitement. It’s a well-written and gentle reminder to all visitors- particularly if they haven’t been around newborns for quite some time, or ever!

    Josi

    @Donna…since you brought up your 85 year old grandmother, I’d like to share something that is weighing heavily on my heart. My niece who is 30 and who just had her third child, invited her Mother which is my twin sibling, to her home about 7 hours away. My sister has been quite supportive in all the grandchildren’s entrance into the world while, in the midst of all these years she’s having these babies, is also battling cancer. It’s difficult for her to drive as she suffers allot of aches and pains, she suffers from horrible migraines, among many other things. Despite all her challenges, she got in her car and drove anyway. Personally, I feared for her safety and thought she shouldn’t go until she was feeling better but it turns out she had committed to being there as my neice had no other alternative for babysitting the two other children so my sister committed. She worked hard while there too, and did whatever she could to accommodate her designer driven culturally correct daughter. Well, I don’t know how our society became so selfish and self-centered on cultural views and proper etiquette, but being told by your only child that having Mimi included in picture taking is not normal in our modern day landscape, was shocking to me after the sacrifices my sister made for this demanding spoiled adult child. My sister was committed regardless of her health and kept her promise to be there even if it meant risking her own safety to get there and she’s rudely excluded from a flipping photo shoot due to it not being politically aligned with a certain criteria of a young millennial thinking way’s, who finds it to be out of the normal acceptance, her exact words, and anti-designer photo-ish like, for whatever reason, didn’t mind placing a huge heartbreak on her own Mother, is startling to me. I could only imagine what my sister felt like when told the morning after breakfast p, that it’s time to get all prettied up cuz we’re going for a family photo shoot, only Mother, your not invited bc it’s just not ‘the thing or it’s not normal’ for Mimi to be in the picture. So telling of what we’ve become if we think adding a Grandmother to the picture is somehow uncool …. how sad for the next gen! Please, either way, share your thoughts and explain why you feel the way you do. Thank you for this article.

    Josi

    I’m with you Donna, this website is for the cultural correct uppity millennialist’ “sorry but that’s the feeling I get”, who feel this website is needed over having some common sense and decency toward the Grandmothers, guess we don’t count in the grand scheme of things when newborns arrive. She wouldn’t even post my comment about Grandmother in the pics with newborns….guess their catering to a certain class only. Oh well

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