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).