16 Do’s and Don’ts of Visiting a New Mum and Bub
My baby girl is having a baby! And I’m over the moon excited about it. The conversations between my daughter and I are pretty much 100% focused on pregnancy, birth, and on how much stuff to buy for the baby. As you would expect.
Lana, besides being pregnant, happens to be a midwife so she has seen and heard it all when it comes to new mothers (at least from the hospital side of things) so she is very clear in her mind as to how she wants things to play out before, during and after the birth.
Last night we got talking about two very important issues: the first is that any friend or family member that expects to see the newborn in the first six weeks of its’ life will have to have had a whooping cough vaccination booster shot; also known as Tdap which is a combination of whooping cough, diphtheria and tetanus. These boosters only last for ten years and a lot of people mistakenly believe they are covered when they are not. Having seen first hand the devastating effects of whooping cough on babies who have not yet been immunised at six weeks this is a no-brainer.
I have no doubt there will be more than a few people who will be offended at being shown the “Hand” at the door if they’ve failed to get it but the choice, of course, is totally up to them and if they’re happy to wait six weeks to meet bub then there’s no issue.
The second item high on her radar is the expectations and behaviour of visitors after the birth. I remember like it was yesterday how overwhelming it was dealing with well-meaning and good-intentioned visitors who are all eager to congratulate, bear gifts and have cuddles with the precious new life but are largely clueless as to how stressful it can be.
Everyone knows there are no expectations on a new mother to play host while in hospital but remember – this woman is exhausted, probably has stitches, is sore and bleeding. Her breasts are full and uncomfortable and she’s learning to navigate the strange new world of breastfeeding. And yet there’s a whole host of people standing around the bed in observation mode like she’s an exhibit on display. She’s secretly wishing you would just. get. the fuck. out.
So with that in mind, here is a handy list of what constitutes helpful behaviour and also what visitors should avoid doing – if you’re having or have just had a baby (or knows someone who is) share, share, share before, during and after the event in the hopes your loved ones will get it, be prepared and be understanding.
1. Find out when is a good time to visit
A quick text or chat to a partner to find out how the new mum is feeling and whether she’s up to visits is crucial rather than just rocking up during “visiting hours” at the hospital. A new mother may be overwhelmed with fatigue, wavering emotions like the third-day blues or struggling to learn to feed and doesn’t need witnesses to it all. Equally, she may be thriving and craving visitors. Just check first.
2. Don’t overstay your welcome
Of course, the proud new parents want to show off their bundle of joy but there will be hordes of family members and friends to deal with. If you’ve had your moment with the family and others arrive, make a graceful exit so the room isn’t full of 20 people at once.
3. Under NO circumstances turn up if you are unwell
Sneezing? Sore throat? Cough? Stay the FUCK away until you are better – doesn’t matter who you are; grandparent, auntie or bestie. Likewise, if you have a cold sore, do NOT be kissing that baby.
4. Shhh on sharing the news
It may be a few days before mum and dad get around to posting the news on social media so don’t go spoiling things by putting up photos first yourself, or, getting on the phone and ringing everyone you know.
5. Be mindful of mums who need more recovery time
If mum has had a Caesar or is in some other way needing more recovery time, be mindful of her wishes in terms of picking up that baby. She might not have had a chance to lay her own hands on it yet and whilst the baby might need attention, there’s dad and the midwives to step in if necessary. Same goes for first bath or first outfit – if in doubt, ask first.
6. Do NOT turn up unexpectedly at home
Given the unpredictable feeding and sleeping schedule of a newborn, it is paramount that there are no surprise visits at home for obvious reasons; either mum or bubs might finally, blissfully have gotten a chance to nap and the doorbell ringing destroys that one chance of catching up on long-missed sleep.
Further, no new mother wants visitors glancing at unwashed dishes, a messy house and at them with ratty hair and a tracksuit that needed to be laundered a week ago.
7. When you do visit make sure you bring the food
So you’ve cleared a good time to drop in, bring a tray of brownies (or better yet a lasagna in a disposable tray for their dinner). Don’t expect to be catered to. And YOU make the coffee, rinse the dishes, put them in the dishwasher and volunteer to run the vacuum around, walk the dog or bring in and fold the laundry. There is no better gift than helping out.
8. Respect a new mother’s breastfeeding dignity
Just because you had breastfeeding down pat and had no issues whipping out a boob to feed your baby doesn’t mean that every woman feels the same. If you’re visiting and the baby is ready for a feed and the new mother mentions “well it looks like it’s feed time” but makes no move to do so, take a hint and leave.
9. Unless you are asked for advice, don’t give it
Maybe you’ve had kids or you’re an auntie or a grandmother who thinks she knows best. No new mother wants to hear unwarranted and uncalled for advice (usually conflicting) from every person that walks in the door. Just be supportive and empathetic to any struggles she’s going through. Same goes for comparing her baby to yours – there’s no need to comment how YOUR precious little one was sleeping through the night by 4 weeks and infer that she must not be doing something right.
10. When it comes to gifts, instead of flowers, how about…
Most visitors will bring a gift and often flowers (which need a vase and watering and then they get chucked out). Again, turn up with a casserole or something that can be tossed in the oven for an easy meal. And if you do buy clothes, there’s not much point in everyone buying a size 0000 outfit for a 9-pound baby as most of it will never be worn. Give consideration to the months ahead season-wise and buy outfits that can be used later. A big box of nappies or 10 packets of wet wipes is every bit as useful and fantastic a gift as a $75 Peter Rabbit outfit that will be worn once.
11. Volunteer to give her a break
It may have been four days since she’s had a shower and a week since she’s washed her hair. Organise a “me-time” break for her. Come over with another close friend; one of you can look after the baby while the other cleans the house while she soaks in a bath, shaves her legs and transforms herself into a human again. Then leave. She will adore you for this.
12. Don’t ask to hold the baby if it’s asleep
You’ll get your chances – plenty of times in days to come but if that bub’s peacefully sleeping, leave it that way.
13. Lower your friendship expectations for a while
If you’ve got kids yourself, you’ll understand. If you don’t – you’re going to have to come to terms with the fact that you’re just not going to see your girl much at all for the first few months and then after that, you will have to get used to doing activities that fit in with a new mother. She can’t just jump in her car and meet you for dinner anymore at the drop of a hat or go dance until the wee small hours. Sozz.
14. Make zero comments about her figure
She really doesn’t need to hear comments like: “so how long do you think it will be before you’re back to your old weight”, or “so are you going to join the gym now”? STFU.
15. Respect the new dad too
Bear in mind that this is not just a new mother, but a new family. Dad wants some alone time with his partner and new baby too. Those first few weeks are an important bonding time for everyone.
16. Second or Third-time mums need just as much support
Yes, the first baby is exciting and amazing and everyone flocks to help and support the first time mother but mums who are having their second, third or fourth child will need just as much if not more help especially if their younger children are toddlers. Volunteer to take one or more of their older children for a day or an afternoon if you can to give her bonding time with the new baby.
Bringing a new life into the world is hard work. New mums are sensitive, hormonal and emotional and some of these things may seem silly or petty but they are all important to bear in mind. Everyone’s birth experience and coping mechanisms will be different and each woman will require different levels of support so don’t be offended by something that might seem trivial to you but vastly important to her.
With time and experience every new mother gains confidence and eventually will get back to normal (in about 18 years) so just be patient and pick up on hints and cues and try to put yourself in their shoes; remember how tired you were or if you haven’t had kids yourself, know this is an alien new world and this new baby is the centre of their universe for awhile at least. xx
And feel free to add to anything we’ve forgotten!