I was so happy when I recently received news that my best friend had her beautiful baby girl, the second addition to their family. Mother and baby were doing well and daddy and big brother were very proud.
Although it has been a year since my son was a newborn I remember those first few hours and days like it was yesterday. And it reminded me of the important etiquette when visiting a newborn baby.
I was absolutely shattered.
It was 38 hours from the time my waters broke to when our son arrived in the world looking like an alien, curled up in a blue ball and letting out his first wails of shock. I was put on an antibiotic drip which was in the most awkward place in the bend of my arm. I opted for the gas (amazing). I was given oxytocin (not so amazing). I got the epidural (both amazing and not so amazing). Doctors had to use forceps then tried manually to turn bubs, in the end I had to have a caesarean. To say I felt like death warmed up is an understatement. We managed to have some skin to skin time despite feeling like I had been out on the vino’s the night before, spew bag nestled conveniently by my shoulder for the ol’ turn and heave.
My husband, bless his thick wool blend work socks, excitedly called our parentals, brothers & sisters then proceeded to post all the required details on Facebook, including a picture of my exhausted self in all my ‘just had a baby after 38 hours I hope I get paid overtime for this’ glory, holding our bundle of sweet smelling newborn baby.
It was not long before the influx of well-meaning visitors began to steadily stream in. I hadn’t had a shower in 2 days, i still hadn’t brushed my teeth after being sick from the drugs, I had a catheter tube hanging out from between my legs and I felt like a smashed crab. Why on earth were people allowed to visit? WHY??!
Now back to the story of my best friend.
The little trooper popped her princess out before breakfast and the family was home by lunch time. Amazing right? Reminiscing about those first foggy newborn baby days I withheld the urge to immediately race over to their house and wrap my nose around that intoxicating new baby smell. However, by day 3 I had a text calling for my ear. Bestie needed a vent and I was ready and willing to assist.
Upon arrival I was greeted at the door by Daddy. I gave him a cheek kiss, bro hug and genuine “How are you feeling?” All was well on the daddy front.
I called out “And where is big brother? I want my cuddles!” Big brother was at daycare.
“Yo woman, where you at?!” was the callout given to my bff. Don’t worry, it was followed with “wow you look amazing, shut the front door you did not just give birth 2 days ago!” Hugs and kisses were given, coffee’s were made, I washed my hands and had a cuddle of their beautiful baby daughter then it was down to business. She vented and I listened and we came up with a list for people to use when visiting a family with a newborn baby. I was happy that I pretty much ticked all of them but hey, I’ve been there so I did know better this time!
1. Wash hands, dry thoroughly and repeat
When people come to visit a newborn baby they are naturally very excited and genuinely mean well when going straight past the parents and diving in for the cuddle with bubs, as happened with bff (vent #1). However with 95% of people not washing their hands correctly after using the toilet, I think it is safe to say it is fair for any new parent to ask all visitors to wash their hands properly before giving their new bubs some love.
2. Acknowledge ALL family members before the baby, especially siblings
Bff was worried people would leave out the older sibling and go straight for the baby. She told every person who visited that they are to say hello to their first born prior to saying hello to the baby and having a cuddle, after all they were here first! Apparently a few people were upset by this request (vent #2). I am sure most people would agree this is actually fair and to suggest otherwise is quite selfish. Agreed? Agreed.
3. Keep the germs away
I am quite certain this one does not need explaining but if it does; In the first 6-8 weeks of their life, babies have little to no antibodies which means they have a low immunity to everything including the common cold. Any possible sickness no matter how trivial it may seem could cause complications or even death for a newborn. Even a coldsore can have devastating effects on a newborn baby and you don’t even have to kiss them on the lips. Just don’t do it!
4. Send a text or call before you visit
Showing up un-announced (vent #4) even at the best of times is just plain rude. Always call and arrange a suitable time for a visit. Further to this, new parents don’t know it yet but they would prefer you skip the hospital visit and wait until they are settled at home and call you to come over. If you were me, not showered, carpet growing in your mouth, your guts feeling like a truck had exploded out of them with a tube coming out from your lady parts you wouldn’t want visitors in the hospital either.
5. Forget the flowers, bring me food!
This was quite a godsend for me personally. My neighbour came over bearing lasagne, hamburger patties and a salad. She gave me a hug, the baby a coo-chi-coo, did my dishes and left us to it. I was in no frame of mind to cook and clean. I was feeding a baby every 2 hours and trying to get sleep where I could. So, unless you come with mounds of food & pine-o-clean in your handbag please do not press that doorbell.
6. Hug like you don’t mean it
This is something people do not really think about but you need to know! Breastfeeding can initially be very painful whilst becoming established. Nipples are dry and cracked and the breasts are extremely sore and tender when the milk comes in. Please be gentle and hug softly, barely at all would be nice. You have no idea what having volcano’s for boobs feels like
Then I came up with a few more of my own:
7. Please keep your visit to within 1 hour
There is nothing worse than trying to nicely ask someone to leave when you are exhausted and struggling to form a sentence let alone be diplomatic about it. There is a rough routine to stick to and we don’t want to offend by asking you to please make your way home.
8. Be the host
You know where the fridge, kettle & food are. Get yourself a cuppa and the biccies and bring some in for us when you come back from the kitchen. Much obliged.
9. Please wait to be offered a cuddle with the baby...
For some new mothers their instinct to protect their baby is quite strong and may not feel comfortable having their baby passed around like a charity bowl in church. They can find it hard to say no when friends and family visit and may feel guilty, upset or anxious if they are pressured to pass the baby around.
10. …And know when to give the baby back
Have a quick cuddle then let the baby have time back with mum to resettle. If the baby cries whilst you are holding them offer bubs back immediately. Some mums and dads may be happy for you to settle their baby but it can make others anxious listening to their babies cry in the arms of another.
11. Mind your own business
This is just a friendly reminder to only say pleasant things. It doesn’t matter if they are formula feeding or breast feeding, using disposable nappies or modern cloth nappies, baby wearing or using a pram. Regardless if you disagree about their parenting choices just smile, nod and offer support because they are doing what works for them and it doesn’t concern you.
So these were the things I and my bestie felt most strongly about when visiting a newborn baby. Did you find it helpful? Do you have suggestions to add to the list?