The period of time immediately after parents bring a new baby home is precious. It can be hectic, stressful, boring, overwhelming and isolating all at the same time. In my two experiences, what makes things easier during this time is space. Freedom from too many visitors can help with that. My husband and I are both very social people and love having friends and family around. We love to host and to go to others’ houses. BUT. The exception to this is the first few weeks postpartum.
New parents need their space, but often have a hard time telling people “No” at the same time. Please don’t put them in a position to have to say “No.” It’s hard enough being new parents without the emotional burden of feeling like you’re offending well-meaning friends and family.
If you are a parent or close relative of the new parents and want to stay with them temporarily, this is a very generous offer. Just make sure you ask about time-frame and be prepared to be helpful throughout your stay.
For the rest of you, there is no need to feel guilty. Parents know you mean well. All I ask now is that you are mindful of their needs. You know them more an I do, but they’re not their “normal” selves right now. Parents will remember who their considerate guests were.
Keep in mind that these tips are coming from a perspective of a two-parent household and that, of course, my opinions are not universal.
Here are some valuable tips on how to handle visiting new parents and babies:
1. Do you have to visit right now?
How close is your relationship to the couple? Is a visit so soon after the birth warranted? If you are not immediate family or considered “best” friends, the answer is likely NO. Use your judgment on this. Consider whether the visit is just for you or if you are benefiting them in some way as well. If they have specifically invited you, by all means go! Don’t feel like you are being a bad friend, though, if you wait a few weeks- see #12 for tips on how to show you care!
2. Avoid the first week especially.
Give them time to adjust to life at home, coordinate feedings and get a handle on breastfeeding. Even the most social of moms doesn’t want to be in a nighty and mesh underwear around you. Once she’s healed a bit, it’ll be easier.
3. Be on Time.
Tell the parents a specific time and show up at that time. It doesn’t matter if you “don’t expect them to be host and hostess” or if you know they’re home all day. They’re still timing feedings around you and waiting for you. It’s causing them anxiety if you show up late because the next feeding is coming up and they’re already stressing about it. The mom may not feel comfortable breastfeeding in front of people, especially if she is still learning what works or is using special equipment to do so.
4. Keep visits short.
As in under an hour. This lessens the likelihood that you’ll be there for a feeding, even if you’re a bit late. Even if you’re family, a new mom likely doesn’t want to be figuring out breastfeeding in front of you. It can be exhausting just having to sit up on the couch to talk to guests for too long as well, so try not to overstay.
5. Wash your hands.
Don’t make the new parent ask you. It doesn’t have to be the very first thing you do when you arrive, but don’t ask to hold the baby before washing up. They may have hand sanitizer out, but I think soap and water is best. They will appreciate you for this even if they wouldn’t have thought to remind you- especially during flu season.
6. Bring food.
This is not a time to show up empty-handed. Keep in mind the couples’ eating habits, and homemade is best, but generally anything will do. Even wine or beer will suffice if they are drinkers. If you want to be super-thoughtful, make lactation bites or something specifically catered to the breastfeeding mom. If you feel comfortable enough, you can bring food to cook at their house so the meal is fresh and hot. Don’t forget to clean up- don’t under any circumstances leave a mess for them.
- For tips on ideal postpartum foods, google it or get The First Forty Days book for recipes.
7. Give them a heads up.
Tell them ahead of time if you’re bringing a meal to eat that day. It’s not a good surprise to show up with food for that night without saying so, because you could have saved them the work of also preparing something for themselves. They will look forward to it if they know they’re being fed!
8. If you can avoid bringing small children, please do
This can be a touchy subject, and again, use your judgment. If you must bring small children- or even if the couple requests them- keep visits short. A new mom can’t jump up to clean up or prevent a spill, and shouldn’t be expected to monitor your kids behavior or worry about outside germs. Plus, they might be loud which kind of kills the peaceful new-baby-vibe. If you can keep them quiet or otherwise occupied, fantastic. And no photo ops without having them wash up! If the couple has other children in the house, it could be helpful to offer to take them outside or play with them in another room if you’re there for a feeding.
9. Do not expect them to cater to you.
Normally, this couple would offer you a drink upon your arrival. They may normally have snacks out as well. Do not expect this. They may do it, but they may also totally forget how to host during this time. Help yourself or bring your own drinks and snacks. Don’t feel any kind of way if they eat meals in front of you or don’t offer to feed you. They’re in survival mode.
If there are dishes in the sink or on side tables, do them. Don’t even ask. Otherwise, offer to fold laundry, transfer wash to the dryer, sweep, vacuum, empty the dishwasher or bring in the mail. Offer to watch the baby if they want to shower or nap (if there’s time). Offer to make tea or a pot of coffee. Ask if they’re hungry. Sometimes all they want is for someone to fetch the bag of chips from the pantry or microwave a plate of leftovers. It really takes effort to get off the couch during this time. Fill their water cup if nothing else. And feel free to change the baby!
11. Keep in mind the burden placed on the new parents as hosts.
Even if you say, “Don’t feel like you need to host us!” Parents still have things they feel they need to do before any guests arrive. They’re human and they want to seem like they *kind of* have their $h*t together. Here are some of the things they’re scrambling to do before you arrive:
- Hide nipple shield, nipple cream or other boob-related items
- Put away medications such as stool softener
- Clean up all their pads and supplies in the bathroom
- Straighten up the house
- Put on clothes
- Time feedings
Potential Inconveniences of your visit:
- They might not get a nap that day
- Their own meal time is delayed
- They have to worry about baby feeding times
- They have to put on clothes
- They feel like they have to play host and hostess
- Drop off food on the doorstep
- Send a baby gift (could be something left over on their registry)
- Send a care package of food or postpartum items
- Recovery Tea or Lactation tea (another kind)
- Nursing Tank Tops– so many choices on Amazon
- Bone Broth- incredible for postpartum healing! Make your own or order from one of these awesome companies:
- The First Forty Days
- The Fourth Trimester
- Something funny like Dad is Fat
- Set up a Meal Train with the couple’s friends and family for them
- Offer to go grocery shopping for them
- Offer to mow the lawn or pull weeds, depending on time of year
Thank you for taking the time to read this! We SO appreciated our friends and family visiting us after our girls were born, and they were generally considerate. It inspired me to create this list, which I didn’t think I’d remember well if I waited to long to jot it down. We all have an opportunity to make the postpartum period easier and more enjoyable for our loved ones if we keep their needs in mind. And we’d want them to do the same for us!