As much as you want to meet your friend’s new baby, could you also be making things harder? Here are 12 rules to follow when visiting a new mom.
I could barely remember to shower, much less vacuum the carpet, prepare a meal or even manage the overwhelming change of becoming a new mom. No doubt, every mom could use help during those first few weeks and months after bringing home a baby.
But what if help from others isn’t so… helpful?
Sometimes, having others over to your home becomes more of a burden. You need to make plans or you feel obligated to entertain and hold a conversation.
What are some rules friends and family can follow to make sure mom is actually getting the help she needs?
12 rules to follow when visiting a new mom
I was lucky: both my family and in-laws live near us, providing much-needed help (and chicken noodle soup!) during those early months after both my deliveries. I know exactly what new moms wish for, and what they’d rather do without.
I’ve also been on the other side as a visitor to fellow new moms—friends and family who’ve given birth. Although the main “reason” when visiting a new mom is to meet the new baby, we forget our task of offering a helping hand.
And sometimes we don’t know how to help, or don’t want to overstep boundaries or make assumptions. Do we do their laundry? What kind of food should we bring? Does she want us to visit now, or a few weeks later?
If you’re visiting a new mom and want to be as helpful as possible, keep in mind these 12 rules:
1. Ask for a good time to visit
Every new mom has her timeline of when she feels ready to accept visitors. She may be ready to see you anywhere from right at the hospital, to several weeks later after she’s more settled.
Don’t feel disappointed or take it personally if your friend isn’t ready to see visitors yet. She has her reasons, from wanting to bond with her new family to spreading out her resources over several weeks.
While I appreciated my early visitors, I was also grateful for those who came later, long after the baby had been born. I still needed help even during those later weeks.
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2. Call ahead to see if she needs anything
Your friend will likely be house-bound for a few weeks. Before visiting a new mom, give her a call and let her know you’re at a particular store and ask if she needs anything from there.
It isn’t always the big things, either. My sister was at the grocery and asked if I needed anything, and I realized I was low on honey. Depending on where you are, you might be able to pick things up like diapers, grocery items or even medicine.
These essential and sometimes last-minute items can be just the thing your friend needs, but can’t manage to get herself.
3. Follow her rules without comment
New moms—especially first-time moms—have strange instructions visitors need to follow. From removing shoes, to using hand sanitizer, to not rocking the baby to sleep, every mom has her preferences.
The best thing to do? Follow her rules. This is, after all, her baby and new family, and she has the best intentions, even if they run counter to yours. And while you may expect her to loosen up as the years go by, she doesn’t need to hear that right now.
And follow her rules without raising eyebrows or making comments. She doesn’t need to know how different you’d done it, or the research that contradicts what she believes. Reassure her you’re here to help by following her preferences.
4. Offer or ask what chores need to be done
For many, diving right into other people’s chores can feel awkward. Doing chores involves one of the most private spaces in a person’s home (think laundry or trash bins). We may not even know where things go, so that something as simple as emptying the dishwasher can be a challenge.
But it’s worth offering to do chores and help unload her to-do list. You might even ask if you have permission to clean up around the kitchen, or empty trash bins and dishes.
If she minds, she’ll let you know, but most moms will likely not care if others do their chores and will appreciate the gesture much more. A few suggestions include:
- Loading and unloading the dishwasher
- Emptying trash cans
- Wiping and spraying surfaces
- Folding laundry (it can even be the baby’s laundry to make it less awkward)
- Getting the mail
- Feeding or walking the dog
5. Ask if she’d like to sleep or step out of the house while you watch the baby
Some moms might feel like they have to be with you since you’re in their home. But ask your friend if she’d like to sleep, take a shower, run an errand, or even take a walk alone, reassuring her you’re on baby duty.
If she’s worried caring for the baby will be a hassle, suggest taking care of him while he’s asleep. She might not feel too bad leaving him in your care if he’s going to be asleep anyway.
Regardless of when you care for him, commit to do it all the way, from changing dirty diapers to soothing his cries. Don’t “take care” of him only when he’s calm or asleep, only to pass him back to her if he’s crying. See if you can calm him down first and only flag her if he’s inconsolable.
6. Bring food
Besides cleaning her home, the other essential a new mom needs is food. She needs to eat, after all. If you’re visiting a new mom, make sure you come bearing food.
Had you visited any other time, your friend would likely have offered you a meal. After all, we usually eat when we’re invited to someone’s home.
But in this case, don’t expect her to prepare something to eat, even a small snack. If you think you’ll need to eat, bring enough food for the both of you, like a casserole you can eat together.
And while you’re there, prepare the meal yourself. For instance, if you bring soup, be the one to ladle them into the bowls and fetch the utensils, so that all she has to do is sit at the table to eat.
A few ideas to bring include:
- Already-cooked, ready-to-go meals like soup
- Frozen homemade meals she can eat later
- Simple ingredients she can prepare later (like a box of pasta and a jar of sauce)
- Boxed frozen food
- A gift card to a restaurant
7. Bring entertainment
I didn’t have television when my eldest was born, so, as much as I thought of myself as anti-TV, I felt isolated from “the real world.” So, when people brought movies, trash magazines and DVDs, I was in heaven. Call it escapism, but I loved reading and watching things that had nothing to do with a baby.
If you’re short on ideas on what to bring your friend, you can’t go wrong with entertainment. Every mom needs her escape and a way to pass the time.
8. Bring hand-me-downs
New moms love hand-me-downs, from clothes to gear to children’s books. I relied so much on hand-me-downs as a way to trim my budget.
Before you bring anything though, ask your friend if she’d like to have them in the first place. Not all moms need hand-me-downs, or already have plenty enough. You’ll save yourself the trouble of bringing these items (especially large ones).
9. Ask before posting a picture online
We live in a social media world, one where we don’t bat an eye at posting selfies and check-ins. But when it comes to your friend’s new baby, always ask before posting a picture of him online.
Because if she’s like me, she may feel wary about having her baby’s photo out in the world wide web. Even if she has shared photos of him on her Facebook page, she may not feel comfortable having others do the same.
Instead, ask. If not, don’t hold it against her and keep the photo on your phone.
10. Play with her older children
If your friend happens to have other kids besides the baby, focus your attention on them first.
Even though you’re visiting a new mom because of the new baby, don’t forget her older children. Talk to them, even (or especially) if it has nothing to do with the new baby. Play games or take them outdoors.
You can also offer to handle baby duty so your friend can spend time with her older kids. Regardless of which path you take (you’ll likely do both anyway), she’ll appreciate your efforts to help with her older kids.
11. Don’t give unsolicited advice
I’ve learned that most people don’t want advice—they want someone to listen.
Let your friend vent about her problems without jumping in with your own solutions. Help her reflect by “mirroring” what she’s saying. You might say, “It sounds like you’re struggling with sleep deprivation” instead of “You need to stop holding the baby so much.”
Only if she asks what you would do should you offer advice. And even then, show empathy for what she’s going through and that you understand why she’s feeling this way.
12. Don’t expect to be entertained
As you might have guessed by now, visiting a new mom isn’t the same as all the other times you’ve visited her in the past.
She likely won’t have anything for you to eat or offer you a fancy beverage. Her bathroom might be a wreck, and her living room strewn with baby stuff. She’s far from looking presentable, and she might feel all sorts of emotions you haven’t seen.
This is all normal, and a mark of your intimate relationship. Even though you’re in her home, think of yourself as a semi-hostess, making her as comfortable and supported as possible.
I found that the ideal situation for many new moms was finding a balance between having company and not having to entertain. Of giving instructions and not micromanaging. And of open communication on either side and asking when we’re not sure how to be most helpful.
And the most important thing to keep in mind? We’re not guests.
Any other time, on any other visit, sure, we can expect to interact with friends and family as a guest. But with a new bundle to care for, a dirty carpet, and the same outfit worn three day straight, a new mom can’t accommodate guests just yet.
But a helping hand, yes—especially if it comes bearing chicken noodle soup.
Get more tips:
- 6 Reasons Motherhood Is Hard
- Newborn Tips and Tricks New Moms Need to Know
- Practical Advice for New Moms
- A New Mom’s Guide to a Baby Fighting Sleep
- What I Wish People Told Me About Being a New Mom
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