It’s a strange time, those first few weeks at home with a newborn. Especially if it is your first baby then your life has completely changed. Suddenly you are in charge of keeping this tiny delicate human alive and happy, your body is completely alien to you, you may be trying to suss out breastfeeding or recovering from a c-section, and you also have to co-ordinate literally everyone in your life coming to visit the new baby.
I don’t want to seem ungrateful for the swarms of visitors that we were blessed with in Darcie’s first few weeks at home but it did sometimes feel like a total mission trying to make sure everyone got to see her at a time that suited them. We were told in the Birth Centre to keep her away from anyone that had been smoking and also anyone wearing strong perfume so we had to try to tell people that without offending anyone or making them feel unwanted. Some people have wedding coordinators, but I think someone could make a fortune being a ‘baby visitor coordinator’. We are lucky in that our family and friends are very lovely people and everyone was so helpful trying to make that time as easy as possible for us. So, I’ve compiled a list of things that people did for us that I think everyone should consider when arranging to visit a newborn and their shell shocked sleep deprived parents.
Ask when is convenient to visit.
Definitely don’t show up unannounced, they could finally have managed to put the baby down and be about to get some sleep themselves or they could just be trying to have time to settle into life as a new family. So make sure you are visiting at a time convenient to them, not just for you.
Don’t stay too long.
Remember that new Mum and new Dad want time to adjust to this new life and that they also need time to get to know the new baby. Now is not the time to out-stay your welcome so have your cuddles and a catch up and then scoot along. I’m sure Mum and Dad are so happy to see you and love that you are interested in the baby but being sleep deprived and having the new responsibility of a baby can make small talk quite unbearable.
Give a breastfeeding Mum privacy.
This does depend on the person, but I know that for me breastfeeding was so difficult and painful in the beginning that the last thing I wanted was an audience. When you are struggling to get your baby latched correctly, breastfeeding discreetly is basically impossible and it’s quite likely that she will not be feeling confident enough to have people watching the show. There were a select few people I felt comfortable with but anyone outside of these people had to go.
Make the tea.
When your friend or family member has just had a baby it is completely acceptable for you to rummage around in her cupboards making tea, finding a snack or even cooking them a meal for later. Social norms can go right out the window and she will just be grateful for not having to do these things herself.
People brought us so many lovely precooked meals when Darcie was first born, and I was so so grateful for this. It hadn’t occurred to me that this was something people would do and it was just the best surprise. I think I pretty much cried every time a Lasagne was brought to the door. Also if you are going past a shop on your way to visit you can ring ahead and see if they need anything, because even getting out the house to go and get some milk can seem impossible with a newborn.
Offer to help.
I know you are only really in it for the baby cuddles but once you’ve had your fix, if you see a sink full of washing up then offer to do it. If you know your friend will say ‘oh no, you don’t have to do that’ then do it anyway. The sheer generosity of out family and friends to help us made me feel so amazingly lucky and I know any new Mum or Dad will feel the same way. Also you will be way more likely to be invited back for more baby cuddles!
Give advice if it is asked for.
If it isn’t, don’t. New parents will have tons of questions about parenthood and so if you are able to help answer some of these questions then that is great. But be aware of how emotional and sensitive new Mum and Dad could be feeling and stay away from any advice that could be taken as criticism.
Be mindful of your conversation.
Hearing about your latest boy drama or work crisis might be just the taste of normality that this new Mum needs, equally she really might not have the energy to listen, let alone care. Having a new baby wraps you up in this bubble for a while and nothing else matters, so don’t be offended if your story doesn’t get the same reaction it usually would. It’s probably best just to save that conversation for another time.
Take the baby.
There were time when our family would take Darcie for me so I could have a shower or even have a nap. And those people were the ones I was most grateful for. They gave me the gift of feeling a bit more human again and like I could do this whole motherhood thing and that is really the best thing you can do for a new Mum. They also knew when to give the baby back because I would miss her after about half an hour!
The main point is just to be there for the new parents and sometimes that will mean actually not being there. Becoming a parent is such a roller coaster and some days they might want you to come round with flowers and a pot of spaghetti bolognese and other days they might just want to be left alone. After a month or two, normal service will resume, the flurry of visitors will have died down and they will have more time and energy to carry on with a two way relationship again. But just for the first few weeks their needs need to be the priority and I’m sure they will return the favour in time.