Babies make people crazy. Everyone says babies make the parents crazy (and they do), but they tend to make rational family members and friends go a little nuts as well. So if you’re someone that wants to know how you can remain sane in the eyes of the new parents or be helpful during your frenzy, I have a list of things you can do to make sure you’re a helpful visitor. And helpful visitors get more invites back, in case that helps pique your interest.
As far asI know, there aren’t any rules you have to follow to visit a new family, and even if the new parents do lay down rules they aren’t always followed by visitors. I say this because this list is a result of experience. Some were helpful things my friends or family did, while others are things I was not fortunate enough to avoid experiencing.
- CALL FIRST– or text, or email, or message the new parents via social media. Don’t ever just show up to their house. If you have an open door policy that’s great, but not everyone does. If THEY have an open door policy, check that the policy is still in place as a courtesy. You do not want to walk in on a new mother trying to figure out breastfeeding in late August, wearing nothing but hospital diapers. Calling ensures that the parents are dressed, home, and for you to have the best experience. Because if you think your lunch time is the perfect time to just stop by without calling, you may be surprised to find out that Mom may be spending a majority of your visit in the nursery breastfeeding because babies hate covers and you came at a bad time. If only you had called…
- Ask if There’s Anything You Can Do or Bring– If you don’t have a lot of funds or time, that’s not a problem. This is just a nice thing to ask if you want to be helpful and CAN be helpful in this way. You’ll probably encounter the mom that will lie through her teeth before admitting that she needs help, but it’s good for her to know that she has your support. If you know one of these moms and still want to get a real answer from her, try instead to make suggestions. “I was thinking of holding the baby while you took a shower, I really don’t mind.” Or “I can bring you some (food that’s easy to reheat), I made too much last night, interested?” Or “I’m stopping at store for some soda, do you need any milk or frozen dinners while I’m there? I can save you the trip!” Or “I wanted to see how you’re doing and if you need any help. I see you have some dishes/laundry/other stacking up, do you mind if I help out and start on those for you while you tell me about whatever new thing baby is doing?” These suggestions tell the parents that you’re not inconvenienced by doing these things, that you were willing to do them, and that allowing you to do them is in no way crossing a line or impolite to accept.
- Don’t Wake the Baby– People wake a baby because they want to see them smile or their eyes, or they want the baby to meet them. Unfortunately, by waking them in the middle of their nap you’re more apt to piss them off, and now the parents have to soothe a screaming infant while biting their tongue so as to not ask you what kind of dolt wakes a sleeping baby. The other part of this rule is to not make loud noises when the baby is sleeping accompanied by the comment “you should always be loud when the baby sleeps so they learn to be a hard sleeper.” And yes, there are people that will wake sleeping babies and then blame the parents for not being loud enough and teaching the kid to sleep through it.
- Don’t Visit if You’re Sick– Newborns don’t get all of their shots in one visit. The really important TDaP hospital visitors are asked to get isn’t given to the child until they are 2 months of age. There are other shots they won’t be old enough for even then, and their immune systems are not at par with your own. You may have only the sniffles now, but do you really need to see the baby so badly that you would risk giving them the same thing you have when they can’t even blow their nose to ease the frustration and discomfort? Just stay away, the parents will thank you.
- Don’t Stick Around for Hours– Newborns tend to be able to sleep through a lot, but because they’re up so frequently don’t think the parents are sleeping as much as that well-rested babe. Pay attention to any hints the parents may be dropping, and limit your time to a couple of hours so that they can get back to some semblance of a routine for wind-down time before bed. *NOTE* This does not apply to visitors that have been invited to stay over. Some family lives further away and will stay a day to a week or more. The next item in this list applies to these visitors.
- Be a Helper, Not a Guest– Most visitors can get away with being a guest. The parents will ask if you need anything and forgo their own needs to make sure your brief stay is enjoyable. This attitude should be thrown out the window for extended guests. Especially if you’re staying for 3 weeks to “help” with the baby. If you’re there to help, then HELP. For some parents this means holding the baby while they clean, but that is their call, not yours. Do not say you’re here to help, then claim cuddles for yourself and expect to be waited on. Clean up after yourself, take the time to learn where things are so you can grab your own glass of water, and ASK how you can be helpful. Because not all moms are going to think you holding a sleeping baby is that much help. They make millions of baby products to hold sleeping babies, and sometimes the most helpful thing a person can do is let the parents enjoy those cuddles while someone else cleans or cooks. Being this guest gives you happier, better rested parents, and when they have finally relaxed I bet you will get your fill of baby cuddles.
- Don’t Be That Guy– Don’t use your first visit to purge every “fact” you know about babies onto them. New parents are flooded with advice from every angle, they have heard what you’re telling them before and they’ve probably even heard the contrasting opinion about it a couple of times. And some unsolicited advice IS expected, just remember it’s called unsolicited for a reason. Should they ask for your opinion or advice then advise away.
- Please Do Whatever is Asked of You– If the new parents ask you to wash your hands before holding their child, just do it. It’s 60 seconds of your life. If they ask you to call beforehand, do it, they probably want fair warning that you’re coming so they can look presentable.
Number 8 is the most important rule. I believe some new parents will be very nervous to tell you what they expect of you and will allow you to control how the visit goes. If they specifically ask you to do something or to not do something, you are messing with their comfort level if you disregard their wishes.
You really only need to hit a couple of things on this list to be awesome, so don’t think you’re expected to go all out or be barred from ever visiting the new parents again. That being said, some of these things are super easy and polite, and you should do at least one of them instinctually. These “rules” listed above are in quotation marks because they are more suggestions than rules. They are not rules usually laid out for visitors, but just because they aren’t rules everyone knows and follows doesn’t mean it shouldn’t become the new normal for people to visit new parents with a couple of these helpful rules up their sleeves. Be a helpful visitor, they get more invites for baby cuddles.