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. My dad gave us money for food outside of the hospital.He told us it was better then flowers. Lol

  2. If you know you’re visiting a family with a baby who needs a lot of medical care, don’t bring a camera and don’t even ask to come if you’re not invited! I’m due at the end of January, and we know our little guy is going to be spending a lot of time in the NICU…which means we will basically live at the hospital until he’s ready to come home. As much as I want to celebrate and revel his birth, I know that tons of photos of medical equipment and him in less-than-awesome shape (to say nothing me me and my husband in less-than-awesome shape) are kind of the last things we’ll want. Cameras are going to be completely banned, unless we specifically give permission, and we are going to flat-out refuse visitors at the door unless they were invited. Sounds harsh, but we know we’ll need the space and control in an otherwise restricted and completely out-of-our-control situation. If they bring food, we might just snag it before we boot them, however!

    • I wanted to put this out there — my own son spent a month in the NICU. We took photos of him there, with and without equipment (including an IV in his head), even when we didn’t know if we wanted to, and asked nurses to take photos of the three of us together, even when we were totally scared about his situation. We took photos of his first bath of his life, even though it was a sponge bath. We took photos of the whole thing. Without knowing the details of your upcoming NICU time (and you donm’t have to share them or agree with anything I’m saying) I will say in my experience, I’m so so so glad we have that time documented and can remind ourselves of how small he was and what a strong fighter he was. Two and a half years later it’s still sometimes sad or scary to remember that time and the NICU, but I’m glad we have the photos. I agree about not wanting the NICU to feel like a circus, but I do suggest that you guys consider taking a few shots. 🙂

      • I agree. My birth happened in emergency circumstances, and I was so out of it I hardly remember anything from the first few days/weeks. I wish someone had taken photos of at least the baby in those early moments. Even though it wasn’t very pleasant, a year later, I now would be ready to look back on them.

      • Oh, we absolutely will! My biggest worry is that our shutterbug relatives will want shots of some random nurse changing his diaper, a doctor checking an IV, and other events that really need to be respected for the quiet, necessary events they are. He will be an absurdly-documented child, to be sure, just on our terms at the very beginning. Thanks for responding: it’s always good to hear about other families who’ve come out the other end of the scary NICU tunnel!

  3. Not sure if someone else has suggested this (at work, no time to read all the comments), but might I suggest suggest some vases/old jars of different sizes, if you don’t have enough? I’ve never had a baby, but I remember when I was in hospital, I quickly ran out of places to put all the flowers people sent me!

  4. -Text before you show up- Being in the hospital is a constant invasion of Doctors nurses, in laws and body issues. Give couples freedom to say: not right now.

    -Ask what you can bring by. Gift cards, good coffee, Pajamas- stretchy and comfy (are a great one!)- and ask what you can run out at get them.

    -Do they have a dog? Offer to dogsit for them for the next two weeks. Or if you can be their walker. It was the greatest gift our very cash poor friends could give us!!!

    -And let go of your agenda to hold the baby and linger. Make it a drop in if you are welcome to come by. If you get the cue that the couple wants you there (like sharing a lot, processing the birth, asking you questions) then stick around but otherwise be wary of being a nuisance.

  5. Do : Bring Food! the hospital forgot to feed me during my 2 day stay. I was so happy when my Father in law brought me a turkey sandwich.
    If the new parents don’t have a lot of money, thier PJ’s might be in disrepair, so new pj’s (button front is nice for breastfeeding) or a lightweight robe would probably be appreciated.
    Your time is probably as good as anything else. If Dad is having trouble sleeping at the hospital, he’d probably like to go home and nap or take a shower, so if you have time, offer to hang out for a bit.
    On the other hand…
    Bear in mind that there might not be room in a shared hospital room for 6 flower arrangements, and getting them home might be a problem.
    It should go without saying, but please dont expect the new mom to share her snacks with you. Even if she’s getting meals, hospital food is awful, and she might be revolted by her next meal.

  6. My wife just gave birth Friday after a ridiculous 62 hour labor, and so we were both just so exhausted. Her family brought us cookies, but they went out for dinner together during labor and we really wished they’d ordered something for us. By the time we got to recovery, the hospital cafeteria was closed and we were starving. Also her parents slept at our place while we were in the hospital, and it was great they watched our dog, but it sucked to come home to sheets they hadn’t even stripped and to have to remake the bed just so we could collapse into it. I also wish they would have washed the towels they used or replaced the food they ate!! They did at least vacuum and take out the trash, so that is something.
    At the hospital, the best present was a giant blue Gatorade because we were so dehydrated and the hospital only offered juice.

  7. The day after Tavi was born, my dear friend (a nurse who spent time working in NICU for years) came to visit us … and brought a huge box of doughnuts for the nurse’s station. Those were the HAPPIEST NURSES EVER all day!

  8. I wouldn’t go visit a new mom in the hospital unless she VERY specifically invited you. If she does want you to visit, bring food…snacky things that can be eaten with one hand are great. The only edible food at the hospital when my son was born was a little fruit, cheese and nut plate. They were really stingy with them, too. Seems like I should have had unlimited access to cheese and nuts for the $20,000 I was billed for that little stay.

  9. My friends brought me chocolate & homemade castille soap, both of which were much appreciated. Would’ve loved snacks or gift cards/certificates for restaurants.

  10. Our hospital has dial-a-menu for the moms, but nothing (free) for anyone else, so I always bring a basket of fruit, trail mix, granola bars etc. for the support people. Also for the moms, because I would order everything I could and I would be STARVING by the next meal. One time I packed the “basket” in a nice clean plastic bag so there wouldn’t be extra stuff to carry home.

  11. Food and entertainment… good friends brought me sushi in the hospital (YAY!) and my husband went out to find a deck of cards at one point. Trashy magazines and easy-reading books would also have been fun.

    Personally, I didn’t want gifts of sweet and sugary foods… I felt like the hospital food was horribly refined as it was, and let’s just say that extra fiber is a VERY good thing after giving birth. I really appreciated whole wheat crackers, orange juice, and fruit.. not so much the cookies.

    One nice “gift” that a family member gave me– at my request, she posted a few pics of me and the baby on my Facebook wall. I live far away from most of my family, so this let them get their first glimpse at the baby, while my husband and I were still too zonked (or just too stuck in the hospital) to post anything!

  12. I just had my daughter November 30th =D
    One thing that I’d have loved was a set of pjs (the kind with some buttons up top would be extra awesome for breast feeding).
    Offering to drop off some of the gifts to their house before they go home would be great too. We had to make 2 trips to the car because we just didn’t have enough hands.
    My sister brought us dinner one of the nights, which we loved because the hospital food that they gave me for dinner that night kinda stunk.
    A lot of people wound up bringing candy snacks (yum!). Any snacks would be good for any family members waiting/visiting. I had to get stitches so I was really nervous about eating because of what my first #2 would be like. They encouraged me to eat extra fruit & veg so my husband brought me some cans of V8 and some clementines.
    The last thing I can think of is maybe a camera to snap some pictures of mom/so and the baby (as long as they’re not exhausted- just offering will be nice). We didn’t do much of this because we were both exhausted and we just wanted to snuggle her and not think about anything else. My sister took a lot of pictures on her phone, but none were taken with an actual camera.

  13. These are all fantastic suggestions! Way to go!
    My only question is – and maybe this has been talked about already on OBM – how do you get everyone else to respect your wishes as a new mom? Us offbeaters are pretty respectful and have the forethought to do any one of these things….but how does one effectively say “Thanks for wanting to stop by but I’m so tired and hungry I want to simultaneously sleep forever and eat an entire pizza, so go away”?

    • I didn’t have too many people trying to visi (we asked our friends that we told about me going into labor not to post it online anywhere- to avoid unwanted/too many visitors), but when I was exhausted and my best friend wanted to come I just said ‘I’d love to see you but I’m deliriously tired and need to sleep. Can you come to the house after we get home?” I eventually did wind up telling her to stop in the next day, but she was kind enough to stay a short period of time.
      Another way I avoided visitors was to say ‘We’d love for you to meet her and see us, but we’re both exhausted. We’re trying to catch up on rest, but maybe sometime in the next few days will work- we’ll keep you posted =]

  14. As a Labor and Delivery nurse, I second the advice to wait until the family is home. Most moms have 24-48 hours after a vaginal delivery and 72 after a c-section to recover, learn to care for their baby, rest, and then pack everything up and go home. And new mamas need to sleep during the day (not visit!) because they almost certainly are not sleeping at night (babies are nocturnal!). If they really really want you to visit in the hospital, don’t bring flowers–in a small room they often are overwhelming to smell, and hard to transport home. I absolutely concur with the easy food to eat with one hand, and a pizza their first night home.

  15. My dear friends were the first in our group to have a baby a few months ago. Here’s what they did:

    1. Before the baby was born, we had a conversation as a group and asked the Dad to let us know when they wanted visitors and what we could do. We’re a very small, tight-knit group, and Dad knew that we’d be happy to stay away if that was their preference.

    2. When Dad texted to say they were ready for visitors (thankfully, Mom had a very short labor with a full night sleep before – the lucky duck!), he just let one person know. That person called the rest of the group, coordinated small groups of 2 or 3 for short visits, and determined who should bring what. The first group brought lunch (requested by both parents). The second group brought Mom’s favorite premium chocolates (which she dug into immediately). And the final group brought entertainment (in the form of a magazine and some DVDs).

    3. We showered the new Mom with compliments. To be fair, she really did look incredible.

    4. While we took a few pictures, we held onto them and didn’t share anything online. We figured (correctly) that our friends would post plenty of pictures of their own!

  16. A few people have said to me, “Oh, I won’t waste money on sending you flowers”.

    Now, I’m as practical as the next person, possibly even more so. But dammit, I want flowers. I’ve never gotten a real, proper bouquet of flowers in my entire life, because I’m surrounded by lots of equally practical people buying practical things as gifts. Which is lovely, and appreciated. But I want flowers, JUST THIS ONCE.

    Uh, moving on, food is big on my list. And wine. I’m not a big drinker, but I’m a bit of a wine snob, so going 9+ months without a glass of aged Merlot or Shiraz is basically torture. Frozen meals for post-hospital sounds brill, but since I’m allergic to a decent amount of stuff, I don’t expect people will try it.

    My aunt, who lives in another state, is buying us a gift voucher for a nice local restaurant. Some hospitals in Australia give you a “night off”, where they give you three or four hours of basic baby sitting while you and your partner go out for dinner. I’m not sure if I’ll want to leave my new baby for that long so soon, or not, but I think it’s a lovely idea.

  17. I had to have a C-section. Someone asked what they could bring for me and I said granny panties! The waistline for the normal bikini cuts I had hit exactly on my fresh oozy scar. I make a C section kit for my friends with vitamin E oil, thick pads for the lochia, thin pads for the tummy scar, and some pretty, but high wasted, panties to get through the next few weeks of healing

    • I’ll second this. A friend who recently gave birth via an unexpected c-section said that her fiance had to run out for high-waisted underwear, so I’ve bought some just in case. The vitamin E and pads is genius too!

  18. Yes, food! Labor is a workout and I was STARVING afterward, plus breastfeeding requires lots of calories. Yummy food is great. Or nothing – just yourself. Don’t bring anything to do… I thought I would want to read or watch TV but all I really did was hold the baby, feed the baby, sleep.

  19. I agree with a lot of the comments about not visiting unless you ask or are invited. Keep the visits short, and offer to leave the room when it’s feeding time just in case. My husband’s family came and stayed way too long, and wanted to chat with him about random topics. I got mad, and had to ask him to please pay attention to ME, and help! I was so overwhelmed with the lack of sleep, drugs, pain, and seeminly constant breastfeeding. I wanted everyone to go away!

    Also, maybe offer to help out with getting packed up and ready to go home. I had a heck of a time getting all the crap people brought out to the car. the nurse and I each pushed a utility cart to the patient pick-up area, and I had just had a cesarean.

    Seems like a lot of people want to visit for their own entertainment, and desire to hold a tiny baby. That’s not really what a new family needs. Do i sound bitter? ha!

    • YES! I’m all about the babycrack, but there needs to be respect for the family. A baby is not a puppy, and visiting for your own “must hold/smell/love/imagine self with baby” needs is selfish.

  20. While my friend was in labor, I brought a battery operated fan and a soft headband. I also pay for pandora so I gave them my account info so she could listen to music without commercial interruptions. I was in the room the majority of the time and made sure when her husband fell asleep that he was covered up with blankets and that he took time to eat. Then after the baby came via emergency c-section, I brought food, tea, toiletries, peppermints, clothes for when he is about 10-12 months, a handmade sign for his nursery, and I brought it all in a laundry basket that matched his nursery that they could use to carry stuff out of the hospital and use in his nursery.

  21. Not necessarily at the hospital, but whenever we visit a new mom and baby for the first time (at home, hospital, wherever), in addition to whatever baby gift(s) we give my wife always gives the mom a spa gift card, usually to Red Door or somewhere similar that offers a range of services from massages to hair cut/colors so they have a choice of indulgences. Her philosophy is that everybody brings baby gifts, but very few people remember to bring “holy crap, you just gave BIRTH!” gifts. (Or as she puts it, “the mother did all the work. Why should the baby get all the gifts?”)

  22. I asked my aunt and cousin to bring me some fruit to eat. They brought me a whole pineapple. Um … How am I supposed to eat that in the hospital?

  23. To Leave (until the home visit):
    -Stuff. We went in with a suitcase, we came out with a suitcase, and four of those hospital trash bags full of random cards, toys, flowers, etc. It was difficult to bring back in, too, and with ice all over the road.

    To Bring:
    -A call ahead invitation (because honestly, most folks are in and out unless you know they are having complications)
    -Food! Or maybe just wait and surprise the new parents with a dinner on their first night home, which is usually the most disjointed.
    -Maybe an offer to sit up with a baby while mommy takes a shower or catches a nap, or to change a diaper, or whatever. I just wanted to go for a walk, but I couldn’t take the baby further than the end of the hallway, so I was bored while my husband was at home finishing the nursery for us.

  24. I gave birth in a hospital and they had surprisingly good food. My mother brought flowers and a balloon and I’ll always remember them and how good they made me feel – I kept that balloon pinned to our nursery wall for over a year. That sort of gift made me feel like a champion. My baby was really all that I needed, but gifts for ME would have been extra nice. A luxuriously piece of lounge wear clothing or a nice organic beauty product. Sounds vain but you understand if you just had a baby!

  25. I would have loved to have visitors! It was just me and the baby in the hospital for two days, and newborns sleep all the time! I was so lonely and felt so hideous in that gown with my hair a mess. I would have loved to see a friend come by with a cute nightgown and robe and offer to hold the baby while I showered and changed.

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