I know how exciting new babies are. I know how much people want to see and smell them when they are brand new. I also know that being a good friend to new parents means taking the utmost care with a new and very delicate situation. As a postpartum doula, I’m here to tell you how you can be a good friend while you visit new babies and their parents. If you want to be extra kind to new parents, consider these dos and don’ts, but as with all advice on the internet: you know your situation and your community best — these are just suggestions.
Wait for an invitation
In the weeks before birth, let mom and dad know that you would love to help when the baby comes, and not to hesitate to call. Then: wait for the call. A Facebook wall post or text is an appropriate way to let them know you’re available, but don’t expect a quick response, and don’t be butthurt if you don’t get one at all. They are likely overwhelmed and exhausted.
When you get that invite, stick to it
When they say “Wednesday at 2pm,” be there. Don’t make a new mom wait for you when she could be taking a rare moment to sleep or shower. Don’t be late and risk interrupting baby sleep. When you get there, either text to say you are there or knock ever so gently — don’t rap, don’t ring the bell. If you wake that baby, you’ll feel awful.
Before you come over, be clean and prepared
No sniffles, no diarrhea last night, no cigarette smoke on your clothes or hair. Call the parents or email them to ask if there is anything you can pick up for them at the store on your way over, or any food they would like.
When you have a newborn in your arms 24-7 it’s nearly impossible to eat, let alone cook, so food gifts are king. Food in disposable casserole dishes is rad — new parents are not going to get around to washing and returning your Pyrex dish. And for goodness sake, if you cook them a meal in their home, do the fucking dishes.
When you get there, do something
Wash the dishes, wipe down the bathroom, fold baby laundry, empty the fridge of old food and take out the garbage. This is seriously the best thing you can do for new parents. If you need to, pack damp paper towels with cleanser sprayed on in a Ziploc in your purse/bag before you come over. When you use the restroom, just give it a wipe down on the down-low. Just do these things — the parents will likely say no if you ask them if they want you to. Not because they don’t want you to but because they’re trying to be polite.
Be calm, quiet, and patient
I know you want to scoop that baby up and smell it. Here is the bad news: you might not get to hold the new baby on your first or second visit. New moms often don’t want to let anyone hold the new baby, or baby simply won’t tolerate it. But if you are a good guest, you will get other opportunities. Let mom know you would love to hold baby, but don’t push the issue.
If mom WANTS to tell you her birth story, listen
Offer to write it down for her, even. But don’t pry if she doesn’t want to, and don’t offer your own (if you have one) unless she asks. If it was traumatic or unplanned things happened, this is especially true.
Don’t bring young kids
Seriously, don’t stay long. Thirty minutes tops unless mom asks for more. Make up some sort of thing you have to go to, and let yourself out. In fact, if mom is really tired, don’t stay at all, just drop off the food and go.
Don’t give advice unless asked
I can’t say this enough. When you do give that advice, tread lightly.
As with all things offbeat, not every suggestion will be a good fit for every situation. Feel free to take the advice that feels like a right for you, and disregard that which doesn’t.