New Baby Etiquette

No, I’m not talking about the etiquette that new babies themselves should observe.  Anyone who has had a newborn knows that they recognize no social conventions whatsoever. Anyway, I hesitate to classify any of these as hard and fast rules, because everyone’s personal preferences are different.  But I feel like I can offer certain guidelines if your friend or family member has had a new baby and you are at a loss.  That being said, I have probably broken all of these at one time or another.  Especially back when I didn’t have children yet.  My most sincere apologies to everyone that I unknowingly annoyed.  

While the family is still in the hospital:

  • Unless you are a very close friend or a family member, or were explicitly invited by the parents (note: inviting yourself does not fall under this category), you probably should wait to visit until the family is back home from the hospital.  I have even heard of some parents telling everyone to hold off on visits for the first day or two, so that they can just relax and spend some alone time with their new baby.  
  • Before coming to the hospital, make sure you ask the parents beforehand when would be a good time.  With Rose, we had a horrible experience of being placed in a room next door to a family that had a loud party ALL NIGHT LONG and on our other side, a swinging automatic door that would shut so loudly it would shake our room also all night long.  So, I had to cancel on visitors in the afternoon because I was so sleep deprived I felt nauseated and desperately needed an afternoon nap.
  • Try not to show up empty handed.  It is always a nice gesture to bring flowers or food.  At our hospital, they only provide food to me, so Scott either has to leave to go eat meals or goes hungry.  My mom would always make sure to bring Scott a sandwich or some Chick Fil A or something.  My aunt (who is also my godmother) always brings treats from a bakery to feed any guests we may have (if there is any left after I get at it.)  My grandmother will bring a beautiful flower arrangement that really brightens the room and my mood.  Important note: some doctors put C section patients on a clear liquids diet for 24 hours after the delivery, and it is REALLY MEAN to come during those 24 hours and bring aromatic Chick Fil A with you and make the poor mama watch all of you enjoy it.  Just a random example.
  • Don’t let the hospital room get too crazy crowded.  Some newborns get very stressed and fussy about all of the noise and stimulation.  If you have been visiting for a while and some newcomers have just arrived, making the room quite crowded, make your excuses and gracefully bow out.
  • Sometimes breastfeeding requires all of the mama’s attention and often the aid of the father and/or lactation consultant. If the mom discreetly lets you know it is time to feed the child and you don’t think you have the type of relationship where you can comfortably stare at her bare breasts, you should probably bow out.  If you decide to wait around outside until she is finished, keep in mind that a nursing session can take up to 45 minutes.
  • DO NOT come if you are sick.  Most hospitals recommend not to come if you have a fever.  Don’t come if you have a bad cold, either.  The last thing a new mom needs is a stuffy baby that won’t nurse.  If you have children under 12, you probably should not bring them just in case they have some bug and you don’t realize it (some hospitals even have an official policy on this). A dear reader inspired me to add onto this a bit.  In case you didn’t know, being sick is a HUGE deal for a newborn, even if it wasn’t a huge deal for you.  To give you some context for how serious it is, if a newborn is running a fever, you have to take her to the emergency room.  So I cannot emphasize enough not to go visit a new baby if you are sick or have been around someone who is sick.
  • Wash your hands or use sterilizer before holding the baby.  And don’t be nervous about holding the baby. Newborns are so easy. They sleep all the time and let anybody hold them.  If the baby is getting fussy, she is probably getting hungry and you should hand her back to mama and bow out.

Ruth meeting baby Wren for the first time.

Once they bring new baby home:

  • Now, I usually wait two months to visit a new baby if it is a friend who has had the baby rather than a very close friend or family member.  Usually the initial visitations have died down, the baby has had a good number of her important vaccinations, daddy has gone back to work and the sleep deprivation is not in full force but probably still there a good bit.  Therefore, I ALWAYS bring dinner for the whole family with me and try not to overstay my welcome.  If they won’t let me bring dinner, I bring diapers, wipes, or some baby clothing with me.  A new baby is still super overwhelming even after two months and every little bit helps.
  • It is still fine to visit before those two months, though.  Just make sure it is ok with the parents and politely ignore the messy house and bedragled appearance of the mom.  NOTHING fits right after you have a baby. You should probably bring a meal or a little gift, even if the parents have a helper.  Trust me, the helper is probably grateful for any form of aid as well.  Older sibling gifts are not necessary, but a really kind gesture.  They are adjusting too. 
  • A lot of people recommend you do laundry or watch the baby while the mom naps. My sister in law once came over and did a few loads and folded for me (I love you, Jennifer!) But it really depends on the person. Personally, I would only accept that offer if the offerer were someone really close to me, because folding unmentionables would probably be involved. I do have a shred of dignity remaining after all.  Same goes with napping.  I usually prefer socializing for a little while, depending on the visitor.

Wren on her way home from the hospital.  We had forgotten the newborn insert for the car seat because, you know, third baby.  We’ll probably just have a bucket and some rope for the fourth. 

Ok, now is for the fun part.  Do any of you, my dear readers, have new baby breach of etiquette horror stories?  I would love to hear them.  I would find them both edifying and humorous (but only if you are ready to laugh about it).


About sylcell

Wife, mom of four girls, Catholic, insatiable sweet tooth
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21 Responses to New Baby Etiquette

  1. LorraineTee says:

    So on point! Especially the hospital/home visits. I am so not up for a selfie with about half a dozen people when I haven’t even brushed my hair (or teeth, lol). And I agree with one commenter who said to not post photos of the new baby online without the parents’ permission. So loved reading this!

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Cheryl says:

    I would also add do NOT post pictures of the baby online without permission! We do not allow any pictures of our kids online and had to ask several people to remove them from their Facebook pages.

    Also, do NOT make any kind of birth announcement online until one of the parents has; it is not your news to share! Don’t steal that joy from the new parents!

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Erin says:

    Everyone who is coming needs to give mom and dad a heads up! When #2 was born, my husband’s parents came to visit us for 3 days when he was a week old…and brought his sister. Maybe you have a super close relationship with your in-laws, I don’t know. But in-shape, pretty, put-together younger people are not who I want to see without warning after having a baby, especially when Miss Fresh-out-of-College tells her mom that “you don’t go visit someone to do their chores for them.” You do in this case, dear.

    Liked by 2 people

    • sylcell says:

      Good Lord, were they staying with you?!!


      • Erin says:

        Yes, but I will be grateful that my MIL, who I don’t usually get along with so hot, was experienced enough to ignore the sister and continue to do the dishes!


      • sylcell says:

        Thank goodness for that! People who haven’t had kids tend to be totally oblivious. And having house guests is stressful enough even if you aren’t recovering from a delivery and have a newborn!!


  4. My sister-in-law had a hilarious story about a family visiting at her house and bringing their sick baby in with them. I actually prefer hospital visits. Once I get home, I’m to conscious of the appearance of my house. At the hospital, I’m always recovering from major surgery (none of my deliveries went all that well), so the nurses come and bother me every 45 minutes anyway. You are so right about that clear fluid after c-sections part! That was hard. Thankfully, no one ate chick fil a in front of me! Ha! I did wake up from a surgery after a rough natural delivery to see my husband devouring the last slice of pizza, and I hadn’t eaten in a day. I guess I’m still holding that one over his head. Poor Alan.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sylcell says:

      Don’t mess with a ravenous mama who has just given birth! And I must disclose here that I am more forgiving about home visits because we always stay with my parents for 2-3 weeks after my C sections. She keeps the house clean, feeds all of us, entertains any visitors that come, and takes care of the other children. I am SO spoiled. Poor Scott is usually very ready to get out of his in-laws’ house and back into his own abode by the end of it though. Which is understandable, but also understandably I could stay at my mom’s until they are teenagers!


  5. Great stuff! I will be sure to follow it for any new births in the family.

    Is there any way of (politely) encouraging people to be a bit considerate when I have had my first baby? Because I’m pretty terrified of the idea of my very extensive family crowding in a few days after I gave birth.

    Thanks! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

    • sylcell says:

      You just need to be polite, but firm. Establish some parameters beforehand and have your husband enforce them for you with the family because you are going to be pretty out of it and exhausted through the whole process. People tend to try to take advantage of that, so that is why you need a good advocate. I usually send out an email to the family before the baby arrives telling them hospital rules and visiting hours and then what works best once I am home. Once the baby arrives, if I am getting overly tired or need to feed the baby, I just tell someone who is overstaying their welcome, “Well, it was very nice seeing you! The baby and I need to get some rest now. Bye!” They will usually catch the hint, but if not, that is what your bouncer hubby is for;)


      • Thanks for the advice. I have a feeling it will be hard to be firm when all I want to do is sleep. I mean, I get that from time to time with hormones and work shifts anyway and that’s bad enough as-is. Jon will definitely be invited to tap into his bouncer skills! “Alright folks, show’s over, closing time, out with the lotta ya.” :p

        Liked by 1 person

      • morgan says:

        Would be my advice, too. Tell all possible guests beforehand whether you’d prefer they visit you in the hospital or at home. Both has its advantages – it’s up to you. I was more the “come visit me in the hospital and leave me in peace for the first weeks at home!” Once you send that “the baby is here” message / make that phone call, remind them kindly of the rules and / or tell them otherwise. Yeah, that’s also possible that you totally change your mind 😀

        My advice as well: Nominate someone close to you as the information headquarters. Keep him / her informed and let all others contact that person. Because no matter what you do, they worry. Especially in case YOU are overdue AND they already have given birth themselves. Had this with my sis just a couple of weeks ago. When she was 10 days over due date, my mom and I started walking circles in our carpets. And then the daddy-to-be told us that they are going to try to induce the birth. And after that they went off the grid. Two days later I finally worked up the courage to contact them (because: Calling and asking if the baby is there yet is NOT a question you want to hear when you are overdue. Been there. Twice). “Oh yes, all went well. She’s already a day old and we wanted to inform you within the next couple of days….” I almost dropped my phone.
        So to avoid stuff like this: nominate information headquarters. Let all worried / curious family members / friends / neighbors call that person.

        Liked by 1 person

      • sylcell says:

        That is a great idea. I did read the blog of a family that didn’t even tell anyone the baby had arrived for 2-3 days so that they would be left alone. While I understand wanting to be left alone, I can also understand how that would really hurt the feelings of your family members that you thought they wouldn’t respect your decision to wait a few days to visit and had to be kept in the dark like that. But who knows, maybe they had exceptionally crazy family members.


  6. katylady says:

    You hit on all my big ones–especially the hospital visits. It took the third time round for us to get it through to people (incl family) that barging in minutes after delivery is just not welcome. Also, with tablets and smartphones now so ubiquitous, you can always do a video chat if you really want to see the baby. I like your advice to wait to visit at two months–the first 6 weeks especially are so hard. Our baby boy turned 6 weeks old tonight, and the fog is just starting to lift. But meal prep is rough with a little person who wants to eat and/or be held constantly, so food is ALWAYS welcome!

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Yes, please, please, please do not come if you are sick. I am surprised at how many people you actually have to explain this to. One thing that really bothered me when my daughter was still a baby was the complete strangers that came up & wanted to touch her. I had a older gentleman come up to us in Walmart & put her stinky smoker hands all over my daughter’s face. I was horrified. Please by all means man I don’t know, lets rub your cigarette ashy hands all over my newborns face.

    Liked by 1 person

    • sylcell says:

      That always drives me crazy too! Today at the park, a mom let her preschooler come up to Wren’s stroller and put his hands all over her face. I am definitely going to lose some sleep tonight that he gave her the horrible stomach bug or something. Sure, being sick is not a big deal if you are an adult, but it is a huge deal for babies! And if you have more than one child, then it is even worse! I might add a little something stressing this, good idea.


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