Baby Etiquette 101: The Do’s And Don’ts Of Visiting Newborns
Written by Rebekah Cook
Photography by 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 (and peep our checklist of postpartum essentials while you’re at it!). Trust us, the new mama will thank you later.
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.
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.
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!
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