New babies are magical. They yawn tiny adorable yawns, have the cutest feet, and smell amazing. The hypnotic effects of new babydom coupled with the excitement of their arrival means visitors are imminent. One little spoken of caveat of new baby visitation is to remember you are not just visiting a new baby. You are also visiting the new parents (and possibly older siblings).
As a visitor, keep in mind that the new Mom and Dad are short on sleep, buried in an unimaginable avalanche of poop-stained laundry, and are generally overwhelmed. Additionally, Mom is managing her raging bundle of unpredictable post-birth hormones. There are so many simple ways to help ease the stress of this huge transition for the new parents:
Always check in to make sure it’s a good time to visit.
If you want to visit a new baby, let the new parents know that you are flexible on when you can visit and that you will come when they are ready. While everyone’s excitement comes from a good place, new parents should not feel pressured to manage a visitation schedule for friends and family.
Also, let Mom and Dad know that they can be relaxed during the visit. Tell them that you don’t care if they are in their pajamas. This also includes not flinching upon seeing breast pump supplies littering kitchen counters.
Don’t expect the new Mom & Dad to be great entertainers or conversationalists.
New parents are are so exhausted they are likely on the verge of falling asleep mid-conversation. While the nitty gritty details of new parenthood or the crazy labor story may be interesting to you, Mom and Dad might be feeling like a broken record. It’s certainly okay to talk about life with the tiny new addition, but it might also be refreshing for new parents to converse about topics unrelated to baby. They will enjoy connecting to their identities beyond their new found responsibilities.
The gift of food is priceless. If you come bearing a casserole dish at a meal time, you have a ready-made excuse to snuggle with baby while Mom and Dad enjoy a warm dinner, together. If you are not visiting at mealtime, bringing an easy pop-in-the-oven solution for dinner at another time is a godsend for the new parents.
Cooking not your thing? I had one visitor bring bakery breakfast pastries along with bottles of fruit juice. Others showed up with a pizza in hand, another with an fruit arrangement. All of it was intensely appreciated.
Don’t offer unsolicited advice.
It’s so tempting, and I have been guilty of this one too. When you feel as though you have experience with a certain topic, you naturally want to share that knowledge. Unsolicited advice, however, can unintentionally sting.
My breastmilk supply was low despite my best efforts. I could never seem to make enough and had to supplement early on. I remember being offered a lot of advice for which I did not ask. While advice-givers’ intentions were benevolent, every “pearl” of wisdom broke my heart a little more.
When you are tempted to share your really great parenting tip, ask yourself: does this mom just need me to listen to her vent? If the answer is yes, don’t offer your expertise. If they want your advice, they will ask. Sometimes new parents just need a calming presence and a listening ear.
Offer your help in any way possible.
It can be awkward to offer help in a home other than yours. But anyone can hold the baby so Mom can have a hot cup of coffee in its entirety, fold a basket of clean laundry, or load the dishwasher.
Ask if they need anything before you come over. Be prepared that that thing could be a gallon of milk, but it also might be nipple cream and maxi pads.
Or, just offer to help with the everyday tasks that have recently gotten much more difficult to complete. After my second son was born, my best friend visited. We went grocery shopping together. It was the best help she could have provided me that day. I satisfied my urge to get out of the house, and her presence provided the extra confidence that I could navigate a grocery store with a 3 year old in the shopping cart and a 2 month old in a Moby wrap.
Don’t forget about the new parents.
When the novelty of the new baby wears off, remember that parents are still navigating the rough waters of new parenthood. Check in from time to time. You can send a quick text to just say hello or to ask, “I’m running to the store; anything I can grab for you?” or “Has the baby pooped yet?” Even if a baby’s poop habits are not at the top of your personal life concerns, I can guarantee that feeling like someone cares goes a long way.
They say it takes a village to care for a child. That phrase should also include taking care of parents too, and there are so many simple ways to do so. Be a good villager.