The days and weeks following the birth of a new family addition can be chaotic and overwhelming even for a seasoned mom. Writing from experience as well as from listening to other newborn moms’ stories, here are some dos’ and don’ts to share with family and friends.
When visiting the newborn mom and baby at the hospital stick to about fifteen minutes around the time you said you would arrive … and don’t be upset if you have to wait while the physicians are making their rounds or the baby is out for a hearing test. Moms are also trying to nurse, get cleaned up, feed the baby, catch up on sleep, etc.
Don’t visit the newest addition and mother without warning at the hospital or later at their home. Text messaging is a great option to communicate or use the old fashion means: a phone. There is so much to digest during those first few days even if you are a seasoned mom. The new parents and baby could be dealing with nursing issues, excessive bleeding, concerns about the baby’s weight gain, etc.
When the lactation nurse arrives to the hospital room, take this as your cue that it is time to end your visit. The baby and mom need as much privacy with a lactation consultant as with an OBGYN.
When in doubt, bring food. ALWAYS. A meal goes a long way when a family is sleep deprived. And, please don’t expect to be fed during your visit because let’s face it, newborn parents barely have time to whip up a meal for themselves, much less pick up your dishes and restock the refrigerator for extra mouths.
Think twice about bringing your newest girlfriend or boyfriend to introduce to your family when meeting the latest addition at the newborn’s home. It just isn’t the best timing.
If the bedroom door is closed, there is a reason. Don’t expect to be the exception unless told otherwise. Believe it or not, some mothers want privacy when nursing or don’t want onlookers while they pump. Not everyone needs to experience what some mothers consider intimate moments.
Oh, you feel uncomfortable while I hold bottles of my pumped milk with attachments? When you have to pump, you have to pump. This is the reality when you visit a newborn’s home; nursing is not easy for many new moms.
The definition of helping does not constitute visitors loving on the newest addition while the newborn’s mom is washing everyone else’s dishes and picking up toys and other things from the floor. The best help comes from doing housework, tending to the older kid(s), getting meals on the table, etc. Offer to take the older siblings to the park or put dirty dishes in the dishwasher. Regardless of whether the mom experienced a c-section or a vaginal birth, with or without complications, the newborn mom needs time to heal, which could be upwards of six weeks or more. Even standing or sitting upright for a few minutes that first week will delay her recovery time.
Don’t expect the newborn mother and baby to travel for others. Even after enduring a “by the book natural childbirth” without complication, it takes time to recover. The thought of sitting for even a few minutes much less hours in a car seat to visit relatives and friends while coordinating all the things required during the “trip” is enough to stress even the most experienced mother. And, if mothers feel pressured to adhere, don’t feel offended when she asks who will be there and if anyone is sick. Her concern about exposing a newborn to illness should not be mocked nor ignored.
Spending the night to help with the newest addition and leaving dirty towels and linens on the floor is not ok. EVER. Why not do a load or two of laundry instead of adding to it?
That bottle of hand gel is a gentle reminder to wash your hands before handling a newborn.
You’ll be amazed how much a simple message will be appreciated to newborn moms. Just asking if their family needs anything – from running an errand, to bringing a hot meal, to watching the baby while the parents shower, or just to check in – goes a really long way, especially for stay at moms seeking a connection with the outside world.
Thank you. Thank you. Thank you. I especially like your rule about not expecting the new mother and baby to travel. My baby is due right before Christmas and our usual Christmas rounds from family to family will be interrupted. Hopefully everyone will understand when we don’t make it to the family Christmas Eve party or the Christmas dinner cocktail party.
I had my baby a week before Christmas and traveling was definitely out of the question. We had immediate family visit us (my in laws Christmas Eve and my family Christmas day). It actually worked out really well!
Love this 🙂
I do NOT like people visiting in the hospital. If you read between the lines you wrote, it basically says “there’s never a good time; don’t come.”
I wish I had the emotional stones at the time to tell people to back off 😉 We had our baby in early December, my grandfather had just passed and the holidays were in full swing. We had visitors who were going through some emotional times themselves, and I wanted to make them feel better so I didn’t ask them to stay away. But going through the crazy hormonal emotions of having just had a baby made me not want to share her with others except for a few people – my husband, my parents. My rule for visitors would be: please don’t even ask to hold the baby unless offered. Don’t just read these “help the couple do’s and don’ts”, actually do them! The mom might not feel like sharing, and that is O.K.! I still don’t want to share her sometimes, even at almost 9 mos p.p. 😉
Ana I couldn’t have said it better!!
i agree with Adrienne, sometimes we do not want to share our new baby. Ask before just grabbing the baby. For me, I’d rather nobody even ask, I did not want to share. Still don’t, and still shouldn’t have to be pressured to let others hold my baby. The best thing for me was not having anyone at the hospital after baby was born and nobody at the house either for a while. We got no sleep at all, the thought of entertaining company would have sent us over the edge. Now, MIL did not agree with me not wanting them there our first day home and having them sleep over. She sure let us know how offended, upset and outraged she was about it too. I’m not sorry for putting my foot down, that was a special (and exhausting) bonding time for us.
These are great! I’d also add the following as I experienced these after my kids were born:
– Do not be offended if you’re not invited into the labor & delivery suite before, during, or after the baby arrives. The family may prefer to get to their recovery room (or go home) before receiving visitors.
– When you make plans to visit the family, don’t be late and don’t cancel at the last minute (unless you think you might be sick). This is rude behavior in general, but especially when a newborn is involved.
– Do not bring gifts for the baby and expect them to be worn or used right away. Clothes, blankets, etc may need to be washed in hypoallergenic detergent before the baby comes into contact with them and parents may not want their baby using that cute new pacifier before its been sanitized (if at all).
– Do not bring children to visit the family and then expect others to parent them while you cuddle the new baby and talk with the new parents.
My father in law would come to my house every evening for a couple of weeks after my daughter was born and would cook dinner for our family. It was a nice gesture but when he would leave he would leave the kitchen full of dirty dishes and pots and pans. It stressed me out so much to have so much to clean after my in-laws left to go home. If you are kind enough to cook in somoeones’s kitchen please be kind enough to clean up!! I would have much rather had a peanut butter and jelly sandwich or a couple granola bars for dinner than a huge mess in my kitchen to clean!
I love this post, thank you! I’d add: besides NOT holding the baby unless otherwise told, please NEVER kiss the baby. That is so rude and unconsidered; seriously none wants your germs specially a newborn. In my case I don’t want anybody in the hospital but my husband and not visitors at all the first month. People please don’t get offended; we need this precious time to bond, establish lactation, sleeping patterns and may recovery from physical and emotional exhaustation, besides keeping outsiders germs away. Thanks for your consideration!