Clean, bring meals, or GTFO: what should you ACTUALLY do when visiting new parents?

Offbeat Home & Life runs these advice questions as an opportunity for our readers to share personal experiences and anecdotes. Readers are responsible for doing their own research before following any advice given here... or anywhere else on the web, for that matter.
Cleaning, bringing meals, GTFO: what should you ACTUALLY do when visiting new parents?
Pregnancy Congrats Card from Love Paper Rainbow

Way back in 2011, we published this post about the dos and don'ts of visiting friends after they have a baby and recently realized how GOLD the comments were. Who knows new parent strategies better than the community who reads them? So I went in to the comments and culled some of the best additional advice for visiting new parents and being actually helpful while they're over-tired and over-burdened.

Here's advice straight from our readers about what you should actually do when visiting new parents…

Helping with small tasks

I actually made a list before Tavi was born: "Things we might need help with." I posted it on the fridge for visitors who asked if they could help. It was like … walk the dog, take out the trash, load the dishwasher. Little stuff I knew I'd forget in the moment if someone asked. – Ariel

In Purple Leaves, Red Cherries we suggested making a Helping Box and putting it by the front door with some help notes inside. There were some hold-the-baby help tips though, for example: Make me a cup of tea and then hold the baby while I drink it! – Tania

Helping with meals

A great idea is to do a "food stork" Google Doc group for new parents. Everyone who wants to make a meal and drop it off to new baby gives their email at the baby shower. When the baby is born, a friend (who collected those emails) sends the announcement that baby has now come and new parents would like food left starting whichever day until whatever day.

Food drop off times are scheduled for 30-minute periods. You bring food, in containers you leave or get the next person to pick up for you, do the dishes from the previous night, and get the hell out of there. Everyone gets a glimpse of the baby, new mom and dad get free food, and they can pace the visits as they please. No phone calls beforehand, no awkward "too long" visits as the time has already been blocked off. Worked great for my friends and then everyone felt like the contributed without burdening the new parents. – Vivi

There is also Meal Baby and Take Them A Meal. A little more user-friendly than a Google Doc for some. 🙂 Plus this way the parent(s) can specify which days they want meals and has an option for people to purchase gift certificates for take-out which allows far away friends and family to get involved. – BreAnna

Helping to clean

Something I loved is that when my husband's family found out I was being induced, they came over while we were at the hospital all day and cleaned our house from top to bottom.

Another thing to realize is that some things are just physically impossible or even scary within the first week or two. My laundry room is in the basement and after an episiotomy and major bleeding, I was petrified to even try the stairs the first couple days (and I was told by the midwife to avoid them).

One more thing I think is important is not to comment afterwards if anything you thought was "strange" happened while you were visiting. My mom made a few comments that I had made my dad uncomfortable breastfeeding in front of him when they visited two days after he was born. I was exhausted, out of my mind, and had no clue what I was doing (it's hard to get them to latch at all at that point, much less when hiding under a blanket) — modesty didn't even occur to me. If something bothered you, wait until they do it again when they are awake/sane/normal again to comment. – Darlyngirl

As a wedding gift, my mom hired one of her cousins to clean our house for like six months (best gift ever!). I already plan to hire her back for at least six weeks before and after the birth. That way, when I am seriously disturbed by friends' and family members' attempts to scrub our bathroom, I have a legit excuse to ask them to stop.

It's not cheap, but it's not that expensive either. For me, it will totally be worth it, especially considering the state of my home after two months of nausea. – KC

  1. Yeeeess to the house cleaning during hospital stay! My first was born unexpectedly early, and the house was a wreck! I would have LOVED someone to come and clean while we were in the hospital so that when we came home, we came home to a clean apartment and I didn't have to choose between sleep and cleaning. Also, bringing food is amazing, but if you want to be extra appreciated, bring snacks and/or breakfast. Breastfeeding makes you shockingly hungry, especially at the very beginning. Snacks are LIFE when you have a newborn. Breakfast is mega appreciated, particularly when the baby in question is not the first child. My second son was born when my first was not quite two, and let me tell you, toddlers care not if you have been up all night feeding the baby. They still want to eat breakfast first thing in the morning.

    4 agree
    • So true re: breakfast/snacks. Friends of ours brought over what she called Christmas morning muffins – they had fruit, oats, etc. They were a good replacement for a meal or were perfect to eat while nursing in the middle of the night.

    • Snacks! My twins came 13 weeks early and spent a long time in the NICU. So many people brought us large meals (casseroles, lasagna, etc). But I hardly had time, energy, or the emotional capacity to warm it up and eat it. I ended up loosing a lot of weight while my twins were in the NICU because I wasn't really eating. Finally my boss realized what was happening and sent me snacks, frozen individually wrapped burritos, and gift cards to the Starbucks at the hospital. So snacks!

  2. Yes to food but more snacks and one-handed meals (like sandwiches).

    Don't comment ever if something is weird if you're visiting. I do not have the energy to care as a new mom about your feelings. I'm taking care of me and my kid. If breastfeeding makes you uncomfortable, leave the room. This is my house and I'm taking care of my baby. You can deal for 30 minutes.

    5 agree
  3. Also- I always let new parents know that I'm making a run to the grocery store or drug store before a visit and see if I can pick them up anything. I am still hugely grateful to the friend who brought me a loaf of bread and a jar of peanut butter when I ran out and couldn't get myself to the store.

    1 agrees
  4. It seems I'm in the minority on this, but the idea of someone cleaning my house unsolicited feels SUPER invasive. On the other hand, I loved having an aunt come over and hold the little bug while I did some yardwork. Actually accomplishing something myself made me feel much more human.

    Also, and it should go without saying, if you commit to bringing a meal (or helping out in whatever other way) on a specific day, don't back out and then expect to be welcomed for a visit and provided with a meal yourself.

    Last, keep inviting out your parent friends. Some may have to say no, but I was super grateful for opportunities to get out of the house even really early on. Don't plan on all-night drinking, but don't assume that new parents won't want to check out the local distillery's new menu with you, or play trivia or board games or whatever.

    1 agrees
  5. My in laws organised and cleaned our home when we were in hospital overnight, and they made sure to be there when the postpartum nurse arrived the next day! They also did a lot of grocery shopping for us in the first two weeks after giving birth. I was recovering from 48 hours of labour and my wife had a serious flu infection during that time, so neither of us was able to do much.

    A thing that really bothered me was when my sister and her partner and kid came over (it's a long trip for them) on day three, and then later complained to my mum that they hadn't even really seen the baby that much. My mum then made a big stink about this to me, and I spent the rest of the week feeling like shit about it. Even though it was my sister who spent an HOUR upstairs with me to try and help me to get the baby to latch on. Somehow this was my fault as first time mother with a baby who was crying so much and refusing to latch 🙁 I didn't even know what day it was at any given time… Ah, I guess I am still not over this, because I am crying about it again 🙁

  6. To Darlyngirl, I'd go further than wait to comment on those things until next time… Don't. Ever. Comment.

    If you are visiting the home of a BF new mother, expect to see boob. Newborns eat all the time so even in a short visit there'll probably be a feeding. And don't expect her to leave the room or cover up in order to make you comfortable. If you can't handle boob, don't come or take that crying cue as the chance to skedaddle before the boob comes out. And yes, that goes for the new grandpa too.

    2 agree

Join the conversation

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

No-drama comment policy

Part of what makes the Offbeat Empire different is our commitment to civil, constructive commenting. Make sure you're familiar with our no-drama comment policy.