"Your friend or family member has a new baby. You want to visit. You want to help. You want to meet that amazing new little person! Before you go, read this primer on how to be a good visitor to a family with a newborn in the house — the kind of visitor who will make the family feel loved, supported, and forever grateful!
Included are guidelines that apply to all visitors, plus tips specifically for close friends and family, long-term visitors, and friends and family who live far away but would like to help nonetheless.
In the United States, we shower attention on families during pregnancy, but not during the postpartum period — when in fact the postpartum period is the time when families need the support of their communities the most! Be a gentle, considerate visitor who puts the family’s needs first. Your thoughtfulness will be remembered and appreciated for years to come!"
DURING THE VISIT
- Remember that the purpose of the visit is for you to help the family, not for you to spend time with the baby. Now is the time for you – not the family — to prepare food and clean up any messes made during the visit.
- Do not expect or ask to hold the baby. (Yes, this can be difficult — new babies are so snuggle-able!) Wait for the mother to offer. Many won’t. One big exception is offering to hold the baby after a feeding so the mother can take a shower or a nap.
- Wash your hands when you arrive, and let the mother know that you have washed them before touching her baby.
- Greet any siblings enthusiastically. Give a big hello and lots of love to the older children before fussing over the baby — it will make them feel special during a time when the baby is the focus of most adults’ attention.
- Do a chore. Do it without asking. Or say, “It would make me so happy if I could [do chore XYZ]. Will you indulge me?” (Saying something like this helps ease discomfort the family might feel about having someone clean for them.) Load the dishwasher. Wash the dishes in the sink. Wipe down a counter. Sweep the kitchen floor. Fold that basket of laundry you see sitting there. Take out the trash. Excuse yourself to the restroom and scrub the toilet or wipe down the counters.
- Or, watch the older siblings, or take them out of the house on an outing.
- Or, offer to take dogs for a walk, if you’re a dog person. Adjusting to a new baby can be hard for pets, too. They need a little extra love at this time, as well!
- Give advice only if the parents specifically ask for it. Do not criticize.
- Follow the mother’s cues about how long a visit she’d like. Remember that it can be very difficult for her to ask you to leave once you are there, even if she truly needs privacy to nurse or pump or perform postpartum self-care.