You love your new-parent friends and can’t wait to lay eyes on their precious baby, but you don’t want to make anything harder for them. How can you be a considerate visitor? Some tips:
Do call ahead. In this modern day and age there’s no excuse not to call or text parents before popping in. Even if you have pre-existing plans with new parents, always confirm and give them an out to cancel plans. If they do cancel don’t take it personally. The list of things that could legitimately keep a new parent from socializing is long, and it may take a couple of tries before you can get together and spend quality time with your new-parent friend(s), no matter how much they care about you.
Do keep it short. Newborns are sleeping or eating 80% of the time, and when they’re awake can rarely focus on anyone or anything for more than a couple of minutes. For a newborn, visit, drop off your brisket and casserole and go. As baby reaches two months and beyond you can start making visit progressively longer (or even offer to babysit so parents can go out), just be alert to cues that baby (or parents!) are ready for the visit to end.
Do consider waiting two months. While recommendations vary on how long you should wait before bringing baby around new people, pediatricians generally advise that parents take special care to avoid exposing babies to germs for the first 8-12 weeks. This is because baby won’t have full protection from vaccinations yet and the effects of viruses can be devastating or even fatal to a baby. Viruses are spread through droplets in the air, and you can be a carrier even if you have no symptoms. You may think parents are being overprotective if they ban newborn visits, but consider that a baby less than 12 weeks old who shows up to an emergency room with a fever will likely be subjected to a spinal tap and long hospital stay.
Do get your shots. Don’t visit a baby if you have even mild cold symptoms or have not been vaccinated for whooping cough or the flu. Whooping cough has returned in some states in the U.S. and can be deadly to babies.
Don’t visit if you have a cold sore. The cold sores you get on your lip are a type of herpes, and herpes can be deadly to newborns.
Do bring food. Anyone can gift a bag of baby socks, but it’s the people who bring briskets, chocolates, take-out and fruit baskets that new parents will remember long after a child’s baby phase has passed. Plus the time it takes to drop off a food gift is a good amount during those first few weeks home from the hospital. If food isn’t your thing, remember that the purpose of your first baby visit is to support the parents (the baby won’t even remember you were there, after all). If you don’t bring them a gift, bring them kind and supportive words, listen if they want to talk, offer to do a chore.
If you’re coming from out of town be clear about lodging. Even if you’ve slept at the new parents’ house before and you’re the grandma coming to help with the baby, ask up front how the parents feel about having you sleep at the house for the full length of your visit. If you’re planning to stay for more than a week consider researching an alternative place to stay for at least one night of your visit to give the new family a chance to have time to bond alone.