How to Visit a Newborn
This general ideas, it will depend on the parents, you might want to ask the parents before – and after – they’ve had their baby what is appropriate and what they’re okay with.
Visiting at the hospital.
Unless you’re immediate family, or a very close friend, don’t expect to be invited to visit baby at hospital. Even then, don’t expect to be accommodated at all. If you do want to visit while the parents and their new baby are still in hospital, rather than just asking them when visiting hours are, or what room they’re in, put the ball totally in their court and say you’d love to come meet baby, whenever suits them. That allows parents to then decide if they’ll invite you to visit right away, or suggest that you wait until they’re settled at home.
If you do visit in hospital, make it brief unless asked to stay longer, don’t ask to hold the baby unless offered, and offer baby back after a couple of minutes. Also don’t walk around with baby – keep baby in the mother’s line of sight UNLESS she’s asked you to hold baby so she can go to the toilet or shower.
If you bring a gift to the hospital, keep it simple, ostentatious cellophane covered hampers and big bunches of flowers are lovely but they can fill a hospital room pretty quickly – bring a small gift, and take the packaging away with you and deliver the bigger gifts once the new family are at home. Also if you bring food, call ahead, ask exactly what the mother would like to eat (so she doesn’t have to eat hospital food) and bring her that.
Don’t bring beers or wine to the hospital – wait until the family are home to celebrate, unless specifically asked.
Once baby is home.
Now you may bring around a bigger gift. Though, if you bring flowers you may want to consider also bringing a vase – I had to put bunches of flowers in drink bottles and large cups because I just don’t own vases.
Still keep the visit short, and still call or text (text is better, calling may wake the baby) ahead and ask if and when is an okay – time or day to visit – again, don’t expect to be accommodated. If you don’t get a response, try again in a few days.
If you come at a meal time, bring the meal, bring enough for yourself, whoever is coming with you and the family you’re visiting. Also offer to wash up all the dishes afterwards.
Bring extra food, non-perishable items are good, such as packaged snacks and treats, also juice and fresh fruit, homemade baked goods, but don’t go overboard. Also ask what they might want or need.
Offer to help out while you’re there, bring in or take out a load of washing, do the dishes, vacuum –though always take “no” for an answer, they might not be being polite, they may not want you to do their housework – and that’s totally fine. Though offer to take out any rubbish out to the bin on your way out.
Don’t expect a cuddle of the baby, don’t put your arms out expecting to be handed a baby, don’t pick up the baby without asking, don’t wake the baby, if you’re so lucky to be handed the baby offer to hand baby back after a few minutes, but be prepared to hold baby if the mum wants to have a shower or whatever she may need to do.
Don’t stay too long, unless you’re asked to stay longer, if you come when baby is awake, once baby goes to sleep, offer to leave so that the parents can take a nap too.
When baby is a few weeks old.
This is when you might be able to visit for a bit longer, and hang out for a while. Still bring food, or snacks, don’t expect to be cater for, or given the baby, though when baby is a few weeks old it’s okay to ask for a quick cuddle, if baby is awake and happy, but don’t complain if you’re told no. Offer to clean, but don’t draw attention to the fact the house is probably a mess. Ask how everything is going – but DO NOT ask if the baby is a “good baby” or “sleeping well”. ALL babies are “good babies” and it’s very rare for a newborn to be “sleeping well”. On that note – offer to bring chocolate, coffee, and possibly wine.
If you stay with the parents overnight.
If you’re coming from out of town – make arrangements to stay elsewhere UNLESS invited to stay with the parents and even if invited, have a back-up plan if that changes, and only plan to stay for a couple of days max, and only after the baby is a few weeks old. If you’re staying, try to still give the new family space, go out for a few hours, or spend some time in your own room, but judge that on the new parents, if they’re hiding you in their own room, you might want to make yourself scarce. If you hear the baby awake in the middle of the night, don’t get up to baby except if you’ve been asked to. Make sure you feed yourself, cover the cost of your own foods and don’t make a mess.
Stories from other mums:
“While pregnant with my first child, my in-laws who live in a different state were planning to visit the week I was due with him. There were 6 coming to stay in my house. I had dreaded it, every single day it drew closer. My son arrived a week before they did, so I had a week of just me time with my son, which was great. And I was coping as best I could. I was very emotional and tired. The day arrived that my in-laws came, within an hour I was done, I wanted my space back, and I had none. I hid in my bedroom the entire week they stayed.
To top things off, because they were here for only a limited amount of time, they of course wanted to hold the baby and spend time with him. I understood that, but I was struggling with the fact I didn’t have my baby to myself any more and above all I felt very selfish about it. Maybe I was. The first night we had 2 in our bedroom, 2 in the lounge, 2 in the computer room. My husband and I were in the baby’s room in a spare bed. They ate all our food, and didn’t replace any of it. My house was trashed. COMPLETELY trashed and my house started to smell like smoke.
I had my Maternal Health Nurse visit during that week. I was very embarrassed. I explained that it was only short term, but I could tell she was not at all impressed with any of it. 2 of our friends and their daughter came to visit, and it was a full house. I was freaking out and hid in my bedroom, I was overwhelmed and very emotional. There were 12 people under our roof in one moment. I even remember messaging my best friend to come save me.
Half way through the week my father in-law and 2 others booked a hotel in the city and stayed there for the rest of their visit. I felt very bad that they felt like they had to leave. My husband wasn’t very impressed with any of them. The week ended, and they left. I felt completely at ease again. Sadly since then our in-laws have never felt completely welcomed into our home.”
“I had some good and bad visitors. I had someone bring a friend I didn’t know to the hospital, to meet my baby, as though a baby is public property – wasn’t impressed. That same person then also when she came to visit my baby, she brought her friend again, but that time upon arrival asked me to make them a cup of tea, and when I left the room they picked up my newborn baby, who’d been asleep in his bassinet – they claimed that he’d woken up, but I was in the next room for a moment and didn’t hear him make a noise.
Another friend begged to come and see our son the day after we came home from hospital, I explained I was exhausted after a long labour, csection, I had other people already visiting, but she said they were passing through, it would just be 5 minutes, so I agreed. They stayed for 2 hours until I announced I was going to have a nap.
But I also had friends who brought food, and thoughtful gifts, who asked how I was feeling and were sensitive and mindful, didn’t pressure me to hand over my baby, and left after a reasonable amount of time.
The best guests I had were with my son, some friends came to stay for a couple of days, and we sat on the couch eating junk food, watching dvds, them telling me how beautiful my new baby was, and they were people who I felt comfortable talking to, felt comfortable being silent, felt comfortable learning how to breastfeed in front of them – they who took care of themselves, it was nice just having friends there, without feeling like I had to do anything for them.”