1. Visit only when invited.New babies are exciting for friends and family and everyone will want to rush in to see the new little bundle of joy. That means that exhausted, confused, and stressed new parents may be dealing with a parade of visitors even before they leave the hospital. Of course, they want you to see their baby as soon as possible but unless you've been specifically asked to come to the hospital, wait until the baby gets home. If you haven't heard from the happy mom or dad after a few days at home, connect with them in an unobtrusive way (isn't technology wonderful?) and ask when you might bring a meal or run an errand for them. If you don't hear back, don't be offended and don't drop in. Give it a few days and try again.
2. Keep it brief.New parents love to proudly show off their babies but they are not likely to be ready for long visits. Unless you're asked to help with the baby while the parents nap (and I hope you are), keep your visit to an hour or less. When you arrive, tell the parents you want them to rest and that you are staying only a short time. If you really want to help, several short visits spread over a few days are easier on parents than one long one. If you get a chance to hold the baby, remember that a little stimulation goes a long way with newborns. Watch for disengagement cues and do your best to make sure that the baby doesn't get overstimulated.
3. Don’t bring a crowd.Hospital rooms are not designed for large groups, too many people in a hospital room can be tough on babies, moms, and medical staff. If the parents have asked you to visit in the hospital, plan to wait in the lobby so they can keep visitors to no more than 2 or 3 adults at once. Common sense should be used in deciding whether or not to bring children to the hospital. Give the parents some time between groups of visitors and make sure that you watch out for mom, dad, and baby so they don't get overtired. The baby's parents may think it is rude to ask visitors to leave, so it will be up to you to be sensitive to their needs. Once home, short visits that include the whole family may be fine but the bigger the group, the shorter the visit should be.
4. Genuinely offer to help in specific concrete ways.All new parents need help with everything from meals to dishes to laundry to mowing the lawn. If you show up and offer to help in a general way, it is likely that the parents will be too tired to figure out what you can do. If they are loyal readers, they would have organized all their helpers before the baby was born. But if not, you can make things much easier for them if you offer specific ways to help. So, don't ask "how can I help?" Say, "After I set the table for the food, I'd like to get those dishes done for you and then water the plants. Is that ok?"
5. Don’t add more work.We've heard stories from parents who end up with 20 people in their living rooms two hours after they get home from the hospital. The TV gets turned on and everyone settles in for a game. New moms and dads or their closest supporters end up getting snacks and drinks for everyone. This is an extreme example but it is easy for parents to get into "host" mode and offer to entertain their guests. Don't let this happen to your loved ones. New parents need support, not more work. Don't bring food that requires complicated preparation or lots of dishes to serve, don't bring the baby gifts that require complicated set up or clean up, and don't assume that the new family wants to host a party.
We hope that these tips help you become the most welcome visitor to the new baby in your life. If you are, you'll know by the look of relief that you see on the faces of the new parents when you arrive.