Newborn babies are magical, mystical, amazing things. The birth of a baby often brings extended family together, and gives old friends an excuse to visit. However, tone deaf visitors can create stress and discomfort for new parents, so here are some ways you can make the postpartum experience easier on everybody:
1. Leave your judgment at home
Having a new baby is really, really, really hard. Chances are you will be walking into a messy home, and visiting with adults who are exhausted, un-showered, and wearing pajamas. They might be distracted, hungry, and maybe even weepy. Maybe their dog pooped on the floor and they haven't cleaned it up yet. If they have older children, they might be acting wild and leaving their stuff everywhere. This is normal. Smile at your friends and tell them they're doing great.
2. Check your intentions
Before you contact your friend to arrange a visit, ask yourself WHY you want to visit. If the answer is that you want to support your friend through one of the most difficult transitions of her life, awesome! If not, think about what you can do to get there. This visit shouldn't be about you holding the baby, or seeing how crazy their life has gotten. No matter what she's posting on Instagram, she needs your support more than ever right now.
3. Bring food
They will love you forever! This offering does NOT need to be fancy. You don’t even have to cook anything! You can bring take out or pre-made food from a grocery store. You could bring a bag of fruit. You could even bring a box of protein bars! This is a practical, but also at a certain level, symbolic gesture. It is an easy, thoughtful way to acknowledge that with a new baby it is difficult to accomplish even the most basic functions necessary for survival.
4. Wash your hands
No one wants to be the new parent that asks visitors to wash their hands soon as they walk in the door, so don’t make them, ok? Walk in quietly and say, “I’m just going to go wash my hands before I hug you!” and then join them on the couch. It will put them at ease and, when you see how delicate and new the baby is, it will make you feel better too.
5. Don't ask, but do offer, to hold the baby
What I mean is: the mother might not want anyone else to hold the baby. I know I didn’t when my first child was born. (The second one was a different story!) The first days and weeks after a baby is born are very important for bonding and establishing a nursing relationship. If you ask to hold the baby and she doesn’t want you to, that will make her feel very uncomfortable. Instead you can say, “I am happy to hold the baby if you’d like to shower or something, but I absolutely do not need to! S/he looks so cozy right now!”
6. Do the dishes in the sink
If there are dishes in the sink, wash ‘em! Don’t offer, just do it.
7. Be prepared to see boobs
If the mother is breastfeeding, you’re gonna see boobs. Follow her cues. Some women feel very self-conscious about nursing in front of people, others couldn’t care less. You will probably know based on your relationship and how she’s acting which category she falls into.
8. Ask the new mother how she's doing, and listen when she tells you
This can be a really hard time for new parents. A lot of people fawn over the baby and new mothers can feel like they don’t exist anymore. Like their previous identity has been erased now that they have a baby. Make eye contact with the mother and ask how she’s doing. Listen. You don’t have to say much other than, “I know. It sounds so hard. You’re doing so great. Your baby is so lucky you’re his/her mama.”
No go forth and visit that new family and make them feel awesome about themselves!