Newborn baby! So exciting. You saw the pic your buddy posted in facebook, with the kid’s stats – weight, height, gender, name. You want to visit that tiny creature and get a first hand look. But when? And how? You want to be a helpful visitor, one that isn’t making it harder on your friend who just gave birth. Here are a few tips to help you out. Follow them, and you’ll be the best baby visitor ever.
1) Call before you come. Do not, I repeat, do not, stop by unannounced. Also, give your buddy a bit of time to respond to a request to visit. She’s likely not as glued to her cell phone or email as she once was. I often had people send me an email at 2 p.m. saying, “Hey, can I come by at 4?” Yes, but I didn’t get your email until 6, so no.
2) Ask what you can bring. Are they out of toilet paper? Milk? Tylenol? See what you can pick up for them from the store.
3) Bring food. If you cook, bring a nice home-cooked meal. Something you can shove in the fridge and can be easily reheated on the stove or in the microwave. Nothing that requires preparation. Also, bring snacks. Nursing moms get real hungry, and it seems like there’s never enough food around. Try to find the line between nutritious and delicious. If in doubt, opt for delicious. Again, look for food that doesn’t require a ton of preparation or do it ahead. It might sound crazy, but with a newborn baby around, a mom doesn’t have time to cut and wash strawberries or peel carrots.
If you can’t cook, bring their favorite takeout or a gift card for restaurant that delivers.
4) And don’t eat it. This may sound obvious, but you don’t know how many people bring food and then end up eating most of it themselves. Not cool.
5) Find something to do. Don’t expect your buddy to entertain you. You are there to be a help, not to be a guest. Empty the dishwasher. Do a load of laundry. Wipe the bathroom sink. Don’t worry about being too forward. Your new mom friend will forgive any awkwardness it creates when she sees that pile of dirty dishes has vanished. Don’t wait to be asked to help, and better yet, don’t ask what needs to be done. Just find something that needs doing and do it.
6) Coo at their baby. Don’t believe what they tell you that all babies are beautiful. It’s simply not the case. Some babies are ugly. But regardless, hold that kid, coo over him and talk about how he’s the sweetest baby in the world. Try not to say anything critical about him or ask too many probing questions about how well he’s sleeping/eating/pooping, etc. To a new mom, it can often feel like you’re criticizing her or questioning her competence.
7) Don’t complain. I totally get it. My buddies are the ones I go to when I’m sick of my job, tired, sick or generally disgruntled to blow off steam. Your new-mom friend will be that person again, but just not today. When you come over, you are doing well. Things are great. You’re definitely not going to talk about how tired and busy you are, because let me tell you, those complaints will fall on deaf (and probably resentful) ears.
7) Don’t stay too long. Seriously. The longest part of your visit should be when you are helping around the house. Do not hold your friend hostage on the couch for hours, talking about your job and your relationship troubles, while she is yawning up a storm or ravenously hungry. You don’t know how many folks see you sitting on your couch in your PJs, holding a sleeping baby, and think, “Oh, they’re just hanging out. I’ll hang out too!”
The exception to this rule is if your friend needs someone to listen. Ask some open ended questions about how she’s feeling, and be prepared to be a listening ear. Don’t give advice, especially parenting advice, even that trick from your best friend’s cousin’s grandma that always puts a baby to sleep. Just listen, nod and affirm her feelings. Need help knowing what to say? Check out Liz’s great post on how to connect with your buddy who’s recently become a mom.
Do these things, and your new mama buddy will be forever grateful. When I had Teddy, Liz came over to help me. In my mind, she came every day for weeks, stayed for hours and hours and fixed everything in sight. She claims it wasn’t that big of a deal. I tend to believe her, because she remembers me coming over after Ida was born in much the same light.
Good help can make a big difference, and it can be a way to cement your relationship, even if your friend has embarked on a new journey as a parent. And don’t you want to be the hero that lives forever in new-baby infamy? Of course you do.
Photo credit: I Should Be Folding Laundry