What should I bring when visiting a friend in the maternity ward?

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For the record, Oreos are TOTALLY acceptable to me. Photo by mihoda, used under Creative Commons license.
I am at the stage of my life where friends are becoming parents, and I want to be a supportive friend. Last weekend, when I got a text that it was go time and mom was being induced, I found myself excitedly asking, “What do I bring to the hospital?” I ended up taking Oreos for waiting family members and a tiny bouquet for mom — figuring they could throw it away instead of taking it home if hands were full of new child paraphernalia.

So I was wondering: for those who deliver in a hospital, what did you appreciate guests bringing — or NOT bringing — when they visited? — Alissa

Comments on What should I bring when visiting a friend in the maternity ward?

  1. What not to bring-
    Yourself unannounced. Imagine my frustration as I was trying to learn how to breastfeed when my male boss walked in.

    Balloons because babies born with CP also have a laytex allergy.

    Drama, colds, flu, small kids

    Leave peanuts outside the nursery. Try and find out if the parents are allergic to fresh cut flowers.

    What to bring-
    Because it was know I was planning on breastfeeding, cool gel packs for my breasts.
    Picture frames for the baby

    Gift certificates to pizza places. Good tea, good coffee

  2. A thoughtful friend brought me pajamas (sized large and comfy) and slippers. My mom and husband brought me my most-craved forbidden pregnancy foods — a salami sandwich and sushi!

  3. Food! I’m assuming you would check with the new mom before hand to see when is a good time to pop in so ask if she and the new dad have any particular cravings and pick it up on the way in.
    Though, personally, I preferred that people wait until we got home to visit. I utilized those hours at the hospital to practice breastfeeding in the presence of professionals and was in no mood for visitors.

  4. comfy pjs sound nice! or bring a gift for the baby like an outfit (usually 3-6 month because parents are usually stocked up on 0-3). if planning on breast feeding maybe a nice breast feeding cover up (loved mine and blankets just don’t work all that well with a squirming, curious seven month old). maybe something unique like a unique stuffed animal or doll or a personalized wooden train made out of the child’s name or a neat wooden toy. pictures frames are always in need too! maybe a nice scrap book set?

    • I would leave toys, picture frames or scrap books for at least until they get home. We had a ton of stuff to load up when leaving the hospital and I know I left at least two things. Pajamas sound awesome. It was something I didn’t think about packing. (facepalm)

  5. FOOD
    Every time a friend would ask what they could bring for me, it was always food.
    I know both times I gave birth (the first I spent three days and the second I spent six)the entire time I was in the hospital I was STARVING. After many hours of fasting through labor and then only given three medium sized meals a day, this breastfeeding momma was hungry. I ate things I didn’t like, I ate things I didn’t want. I just ate whatever was given to me. I’d suggest getting in contact with either the momma or the poppa before hand and seeing what they’d like.

    Things not to bring: Random gifts like diaper cakes, huge flower vases, bags of baby clothes. Getting out of the hospital is a chore. I’m not saying people don’t want those things, but they can wait until the family is at home instead of giving them so much stuff to carry out to the car from the recovery room.

  6. My favorite was snack food for in the hospital, and gift cards for takeout/delivery that we were able to use once we got home. Additionally, our baby was born prematurely, and a few people brought us packs of preemie sized clothes and diapers. That was so thoughtful and helpful – things we were not prepared to need! My mom also bought me some new pajamas, which was wonderful.
    What I didn’t like – people showing up to visit without warning; definitely try to call first, or at least try to see if it’s a good time to visit via family. I had about 15 people in my room at one point – extremely overwhelming at a stressful time.

  7. I’d stay away, since mom and baby are usually only in the hospital 24 hours and they need that time to work on breastfeeding (unless of course you are a breastfeeding expert and can provide support). The baby is not going anywhere, and Mom and co-parent need the time to catch up on sleep.

    A lot of hospitals have a greeting card program, where you can send a message and they’ll be delivered. That’s a better option. When you visit later, bring food and cleaning supplies. Don’t ask to clean, just do it. Throw a load of laundry in, take out the garbage/compost/recycling, do the dishes, sweep/vacuum/etc. Also, bring dinner in a disposable container (like tinfoil) or in a container you never want back (maybe you buy them a baking dish as part of their baby present?). Freezer meals are fantastic. When my BFF had a baby, my wife and I would go over, take the baby while she would have a shower, and then clean the kitchen and stock up the freezer with the meals we brought. I also made super high fibre bran muffins.

    Just thoughts, but I’m a NICU RN and know how stressed out and exhausted parents are with a newborn (and I get them when they’re *super* sick!)

    • I think cleaning is a touchy subject. People came to the house and started cleaning, and then I felt guilty that they were cleaning my house. I absolutely second the idea of frozen meals. One of our friends sent us two frozen casseroles, and those puppies were a life saver.

      • I agree about cleaning being a touchy subject. I don’t have kids, but if someone started cleaning my apartment without permission, I would be annoyed. Mainly because they probably don’t know where things go and I would spend more time trying to find those things later than their cleaning would save.

        • Nobody has to scrub a toilet or put away your undies but loading and running the dishwasher, putting in a load of laundry you see sitting in the bathroom or wiping down the kitchen could be REALLY nice for an overwhelmed/exhausted new family. That said, if there are cleaning supplies in the bathroom why not give the toilet a squirt of bowl cleaner and a rub down with the toilet brush? I personally, would be thrilled if I even noticed….

          • Last time my mother-in-law came to visit, she decided to be helpful by unloading my dishwasher and suddenly I couldn’t find half my utensils… -_-

          • I personally forbid other people from doing my red glass dishes. I inherited them from my grandmother, and I wash them by hand myself every time. As for laundry, I religiously sort by color and air dry my sweaters. Basically, I would appreciate someone folding the laundry and taking out the trash and bringing frozen homemade meals.

  8. It never hurts to ask. Im allergic to fresh flowers. Save presents for when they get home, they will have to lug gifts home when they are discharged. Bring a good camera and offer to take newborn ( no flash!) pics. If you bring alcohol for a celebratory toast, be discreet, as some moms will soon be visited by social services if they indulge in a drink after the birth. ( yes, really). A quick text to mom or the partner to ask if you can bring a favorite treat or something they maybe forgot to pack, but honestly you dont NEED to bring anything, just go, coo over the baby, listen to mom tell her birth story ( if she wants to) and tell her she did great. Hold off on the advice and such unless they ask.

    Here is something I need to say though. ( yeah, all caps are needed) DO NOT, I MEAN JUST DONT take it upon yourself to announce the birth of a friend’s baby, the baby’s name or pictures of the baby on facebook, twitter, emails etc unless Mom has asked you to do so. It is seriously stealing thunder to post on a new parents FB wall ” Happy Birthday new baby so-and-so before the parents have that opportunity. Its just RUDE.

    • True! I was taken to the hospital via ambulance with no time to grab my phone or laptop, and couldn’t get to the internet until my baby was 4 days old. Several relatives went and wrote the details on my facebook wall, blabbing that we’d had a girl (we hadn’t known the sex) and it bothered me that I couldn’t even announce my own baby’s birth. I asked my sister to ask each of them to delete their writings, but it was kind of too late. Thunder was completely stolen. Do not publicly express congratulations until the parents announce the baby!

    • Not only that, but you might not know the situation between family members/friends/exes/spouses/etc. There could be abusive people in the mom’s life who might try to visit if it’s announced by a well meaning visitor and having to deal with that would sully the mom’s time to get to know her baby! If people have to mention something on facebook, I’d recommend keeping it to “excited to visit (mom’sname)!” until she announces it herself, in her own time.

    • I agree do NOT mention anything on social media (not even a vague “So excited to visit (mom’s name)!”). I didn’t have my computer when I had my first child and some distant relatives of my husband showed up unannounced, (faux pas #1) whipped out a camera and took pictures without asking (faux pas #2) and then posted them on Facebook before I even had a chance to announce my child’s birth (faux pas #3). We’d kept the sex and the name a surprise and she totally stole my thunder. As my due date approached with baby #2, I told friends and family not to post anything on Facebook (not even that I’d gone into labor) until I did first and then it was all fair game.

      As for what to bring, lunch or dinner food (hospital food is usually bad) and snack food (since you’re up at all hours and always hungry) is definitely appreciated. Gifts of any kind are always appreciated, but I agree with others who suggest waiting to give gifts when the parents get home. You don’t realize how much stuff you end up with in your hospital room until it’s time to pack it all up at discharge.

  9. My due date is in May and this is a great post! I am thinking I would like food (since you are not supposed to eat in labor) …I love flowers and everything but I think I would find them not practical at that time. So food is the winning thing in my mind ^_^

    • You can eat in labor, no problem. The question is “can you keep it in your stomach”. 🙂

      Perhaps the “don’t eat in labor” advice depends on the hospital, but I was allowed to eat.

      • Yep, it’s a rule that some hospitals/doctors make because of a few factors:

        Not wanting to get thrown up on if the contractions get bad.

        Not wanting to embarrass the mom or deal with the mess of a bowel movement during pushing–hello, probably unavoidable because it’s hard to push out the bowel movement without “pushing” the baby if you’ve already started labor!

        In case of emergency C-section, other surgery requiring anesthesia, other medication situations.

        But really, other than the hospital’s convenience, there’s been no reason found for a mom not to eat while in labor.

    • Not “allowed” to eat in labor, more likely. You definitely SHOULD eat in labor if you’re hungry. You should have a small snack immediately after delivery and then a larger meal within two hours of giving birth.

    • Our hospital had a “not allowed” to eat in labor rule but my doctor encouraged it. I definitely ate during labor, it was fifteen damn hours, that’s a long time to have nothing in your system doing the hardest work of your life. I know I at least had a muffin, a sandwich, and an apple in that time and I’m glad I did.

      You should eat in labor if you want to. It’s a dated rule not backed up by research. And I think it’s a mean rule to give to a hugely pregnant laboring woman!

  10. I felt pretty overwhelmed by visitors–even ones I was happy to see because I was so physically exhausted from the lengthy labor and birthing process, trying to breastfeed, etc.

    What I would have loved to have?
    1). a pretty nursing-friendly nightgown (for breastfeeding moms)
    2). an adorable and practicle outfit for baby (always nice) in premie size–my daughter was unexpectedly small, and all her NB clothes were huge.
    3). comfort food. something you really like (maybe oreos? j.k)that you can’t get at the hospital.

    Not to have?
    1). limit the photos!!! I felt so overwhelmed that everyone was snapping pictures and I was in a nightgown and was bleeding and felt super tired and not like getting my picture taken by everyone who visited. Unless it’s prearranged or you ask permission, don’t take a bunch of pictures of the new mom.

    • Yeah no offense, but a lot of moms look, well, like shit, after the birth and its the last thing they want to be photographed when theyre exhausted and bloated from IV fluids, etc

    • Amen. I was so overwhelmed and exhausted after being in labor for 36 hours and family and friends were pouring in the room and taking pictures before I was even all cleaned up. I was touched that everyone wanted to come see us, but all I wanted to do was sleep and to hold my baby. Instead I got no sleep and only got to hold my baby when he was hungry and trying to figure how to breastfeed. Needless to say, it was super frustrating.

      My advice (at least for all the other introverts out there): Text mom or the significant other (so they can reply on their own time) and ask if you can bring them some food. Drop by, say hi, smile at baby, and then let the new family hang out together.

      My grandma did bring chocolate chip cookies that saved my life during a frustrating figuring out breastfeeding experience. ‘Twas marvelous 🙂

  11. Do plan your visit ahead of time to make sure the family is ready for you. I concur with those who are saying to save the “stuff” until everyone is home. We were in the hospital for 5 days and getting out of there with all the flowers, balloons, and stuffed animals sent by well-wishers required my husband to make 3 trips to the car. It was nice when people offered to bring food as the hospital food wasn’t great, but I didn’t get my appetite back for quite a while, so your mileage may vary.

    All that having been said, my favorite was when we got visitors at home who brought food. It was so hard to keep myself fed in those early days, that I REALLY appreciated any and all gifts of sustenance (especially the homemade ones!).

  12. LOVE this post! I’m due in January and I would imagine food would be lovely and/or a drink from Sonic or 711! I definitely agree with the whole not bringing large gifts or giant bouquets or balloons, there’s enough to carry to the car without adding to the load O.o I also wholeheartedly agree with not showing up announced, its just common courtesy and you may not wanna walk in on certain happenings so a quick call or text to see when’s a good time will keep both parties out of an awkward or stressful situation 🙂

  13. Definitely call first, I was thrilled to have people visit us in the hospital when I had my daughter but at one point I had about ten people in the room at once which was incredibly exhausting.

    One very awesome gift I received was a picture frame that had a spot for a picture of the baby each month from birth to 12 months, food is a great idea too I was always hungry in the hospital.

  14. After giving birth, we wanted to get out of the hospital ASAP and never planned to have visitors there. However, my good friend lived around the corner from the hospital and we got him to bring us burritos, because the labor had lasted much much longer than we had brought food for, and hospital food was Gross! It was the best burrito I’ve ever tasted.
    In general, I’d say that unless they asked you to come to the hospital or asked you to bring something, don’t assume you should do either.

  15. I think food would be the best! We left the hospital as early as possible, and I won’t deny that the crap food was a factor!

    Also, yeah, call to make sure you are welcome! My daughter was born at 4:30 AM and at 9:30, my husband’s aunt and uncle came bursting in, shouting gleefully about how could we possibly be sleeping so late! That was only topped by my uncle-in-law telling my husband he should have asked the doctor to “sew me up tighter” when stitching my episiotomy D:

    Actually, having just seen it in the comment above mine, I’m going to go with “In general, I’d say that unless they asked you to come to the hospital or asked you to bring something, don’t assume you should do either.” There’s no reason for you to NEED to be at the hospital, and parents/baby will be much more comfortable and happy to see you a day or two later at home.

  16. I enjoyed the Visits from my Dad (who brought my favorite chocolates), my BFF (who took the random gifts home for me that other people brought!) and the company of my mother and husband…. could have done without all the other people who stayed for hours on end.

    a short visit, with a practical gift (ie foods, gift certificates, other SMALL portable items) are sweet… bringing me a bag of clothes and 12 balloons and staying over an hour is thoughtful and appreciated but not practical at the time.

    • Haven’t had my baby yet, but I would think having a friend that will transport some of the over-sized gifts would be beneficial. The idea of getting a tiny human being in a car seat AND making several trips to transport gifts is not very appealing.

  17. Whenever I’m visiting friends or family in institutional settings, I bring “investment gifts” — not for the mom/patient, but for their caretakers (teachers, nurses, etc). Easily shareable, pre-portioned foodstuffs are usually good — donuts, chocolates, danishes, appetizer-type things people can grab on short breaks. Also good: a big bowl of candy/chocolate for the patient’s room, with a sign encouraging visitors to take some. While a true professional would never stoop to being swayed by such small indulgences, it never hurts.

  18. Ask if you can borrow their keys (if you know them reasonably well) go round to their house and do a bit of a clean and fill the fridge. We ended up staying in hospital six nights with a c section (DH stayed with me) and when we got home at 5pm the place was musty, the bins were full, there was laundry everywhere and nothing for dinner. It was really depressing and I would have loved if someone offered to spruce the place up before we got there. Even a quick vacuum, empty the bins, air the place out and stick a couple of ready to eat meals in the fridge would be great. Laundry would be even better!

    • Great idea! My sister-in-law had some meat thawing in the fridge that got a little rank when her & her husband were gone for a few days because of a c-section. Doing a little fridge check would’ve been very helpful.

    • Yes! We left abruptly for what we thought would be a quick labor (only to have it last for 2 more days!) and my mother-in-law stayed at our house. It was relatively clean when we left, but stuff was out of place in our scramble to get out the door. She tidied up while I was laboring away so we came home to a freshly vaccumed house, spotless kitchen, and our bed was nicely made. I can’t begin to describe how much better that made me feel- I’m the type that cleans our house from floor to ceiling before we go on vacation so I can come home to a clean house.

  19. Snacks, blankets, socks (with the tread thingys on the bottom) or slippers, hair ties (or clips or headbands), comfy pajamas, movies for mom and dad to watch (if there’s a dvd player in the room).

  20. Soft tissues are nice. I did a lot of crying, and hospital tissues are shit.

    Pajamas and clean undies. Absolutely.

    And possibly something unrelated to being a mom or the baby. I got lots of mom and baby gifts and I really would have appreciated a book or a magazine.

    And like everyone else has said, make sure you’re welcome to visit. There were absolutely times where I didn’t want to see anyone.

    • My sister brought me the sweetest present. She found a Jane Austen action figure. She brought me a gift that was directed to Mistie the person, not Mistie the mom. It made me feel really loved and special.

    • Second the reading material idea. I had a hard time getting the sleep I really needed because I just couldn’t unwind my brain. With my husband trying to sleep on the couch watching the TV wasn’t an option. It also helped me feel for a few minutes like I was still my own person, not just someone’s mom.

  21. I was in the hospital for four days and I was DESPERATE for people to visit me and entertain me. My relatives came the first afternoon and friends started visiting on day 2, after texting ahead.

    The food at my hospital was decent, so I didn’t need outside food, but OH FOR A PEOPLE MAGAZINE (or similarly light magazine). Bring light entertainment reading. I was SO BORED. 🙂

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