Richmond Proper: On visiting new parents

The postpartum baby visit: this parental rite of passage can be a source of both joy and tension for new Moms and Dads. Take a look at a few ideas for making that that first post-baby pop-in peaceful, helpful, and conducive to getting you invited back for future baby cooing opportunities.

As our etiquette expert continues her much-deserved hiatus, I’m here to help my girl Tess out and present you all with a few thoughts and tips about something I know and know well: the postpartum baby visit.

I’ve been on the receiving and giving end of this parental rite of passage, and it can be a source of both joy and tension for new moms and dads; they cherish the support of friends and family, but can get overwhelmed by the steady stream of extra bodies in the house while trying to adjust to their growing family. If you’ve got loved ones with buns in their respective ovens, take a look at a few ideas I’ve got for making that that first post-baby visit peaceful, helpful, and conducive to getting you invited back for future baby cooing opportunities.

Bring food

Yes, I’m starting with the obvious, but eating a hot, healthy meal can be such a struggle with a new little one in the house. Before the baby is born, let the parents-to-be know that you’d like to bring them a meal after the birth so you can ask about food restrictions and aversions. Prepare enough so they will have leftovers, and bring everything over in disposable containers (or in dishes you’re not worried about seeing again). As an added bonus, include a couple containers of healthy snacks (like nuts or sliced fruits and vegetables) for them to have on hand throughout the day. (If you’re really organized, rally the troops and set up a profile for the new family on where folks can sign up up for specific days to make meal deliveries.)

Call/text/email ahead

Do not, I repeat, DO NOT just pop in. Reach out to the new parents and set up a time to stop by. A couple hours prior to your scheduled visit, send a quick text to make sure they’re still up for it. Those first few days home with a newborn are hit or miss, and one of the best ways you can care for your friend is to give her a chance to back out or reschedule if it’s been the day from hell.

Be on time

If you say you’re going to be there at 6pm, be there at 6pm. Don’t let them think you forgot about them or that you aren’t making them a priority. Plus, there’s a good chance that the new Mama has used your visit as an excuse to actually brush her hair and put on real pants. You don’t want her to think for a second that she did that for nothing.

Make it about them, too

I get it. Babies are fantastic. When faced with a newborn, it takes everything I am to not snatch that snuffly little thing out of his/her mother’s arms and ignore everyone in the room for the next 45 minutes. But don’t forget that the new parents need a little love and attention as well. Try to make it a point to ask how they are doing before even stealing a glance at the baby. Warning: this will be very hard, but it shows Mom and Dad that you’re there to care for them, too.

Wash your hands

If you do end up loving on the baby a bit, wash your hands before you touch him/her. Trust me, it will be a move that is much appreciated.

Chip in

They might turn you down at first, but offer to take care of a household chore. Keep it simple and not intrusive, like wiping down a counter, taking out the trash, or watering the plants. The new parents will be appreciative without feeling like you’ve been rummaging through their dirty laundry (literally).

Keep it quick

Your friends and loved ones want to see you, they want to visit with you, they want to watch you bond with their new child…but they don’t want to spend all evening doing it. Before you walk in the door, give yourself a time limit (this will probably vary depending on how you close you are to the parents). When your time is up, kiss the baby, hug Mom and Dad, and get your sweet bippy out of there.

Check back in

New parents are bombarded with attention when their baby is first born…but it all starts to trickle away a few weeks after the birth. If you really want to be a blessing to them, call back when the baby is three months old and offer to bring a meal then. “Stoked” doesn’t even begin to describe how Mom and Dad will feel when they get that call.

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Valerie Catrow

Valerie Catrow is editor of RVAFamily, mother to a mop-topped first grader, and always really excited to go to bed.

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