Visiting the New Parents? Follow These Tips!
Congratulations on the newest member of your family or circle of friends! We know you are so excited to meet this new little one and visit with his or her parents. Wondering how you can be helpful and make that visit enjoyable for everyone? Check out these tried and true tips on how to support a new family!:
Keep good boundaries.
Whether two people are becoming a family of three, or a family of 10 is expanding to 11, adapting roles and finding a new rhythm can be challenging! Try to imagine the family as the inner dot in a circle, surrounded by you and other family members or friends in increasingly wider circles. Everyone in the outer circles should be sending support into the center. This way, the new family can rightfully be a little selfish and focus on their new addition, without trying meet the needs of anyone in the outer circles. Looking forward to that precious four-generation photo? Let’s keep those special and loving ideas to a minimum in the first few weeks.
Imagine the family as the inner dot in a circle, surrounded by you and other family members or friends in increasingly wider circles. Everyone in the outer circles should be sending support into the center.
Provide supportive, no-pressure communication.
Know what works best for parents (i.e. text messages, phone calls, or other), but remind them there is no obligation to respond! Set up a schedule where you reach out to them and they can answer whenever they are ready. Pick a designated “communicator” whose job is to send out news and updates or solicit help from the rest of your tribe.
Check their to-do list.
Ask if the new parents have a to-do list you can help with. (If not, help them write one!) They can put their to-do list on the front door or on the refrigerator. Ideas include chores, pet care, a grocery run, or anything that weighs on a mind and keeps it from napping! Visitors can check the list to see what they can help with.
Follow these guidelines for good visits:
- Before you visit, call to find out if they need you to pick something up on your way over (diapers, groceries, etc). If nothing else, meals are always appreciated! You can provide a whole meal, but some chopped-up fruit or veggie sticks in baggies or a peanut butter sandwich ready for one-handed snacking is a big treat.
- When you arrive: Put your food offering away, or set it out if they’re hungry. Ask if the newly postpartum (and probably parched) mom would like a refill on her drink.
- Check the to-do list and offer to complete a chore. They may not know what to assign you or may not feel comfortable asking (i.e. they’ll never ask someone to pick up the dog poop!) but helping with those small tasks will be greatly appreciated.
- Admire the baby and take some pictures to give the new parents (who often forget to take pictures that include themselves). We know it’s so hard, but try not to ask to hold the baby! Baby needs this skin-to-skin time with his parents more than anything else in the first few weeks. However, if they ask you to hold the baby so they can shower or move a little bit – lucky you! Wash your hands, please, and refrain from kissing newborn babies!
- Keep the visit short. Unless otherwise requested, limit the length of your visit so the new family can have time to bond, breastfeed, and rest!
Offer emotional support.
Both parents can suffer bouts of anxiety, irritability, or depression in the days and months after baby is born. Ask how they’re feeling emotionally and lend an ear to listen. If you’re concerned, it is okay to say so and to suggest they call their midwife or doctor. You can even call us on their behalf! Postpartum Support International’s hotline is 1-800-944-4773. There is loving and professional treatment available.
Offer one-on-one time with older siblings.
Consider coming prepared with an idea for an activity that you might both enjoy: a card game, a game of 20 questions, I spy, finger-knitting, a trip to the zoo, and so on!
Think outside the visit.
As much as new parents love to show off their bundle of joy, they’re trying to balance that with establishing a rhythm in the home. Let’s get creative about ways to share the love but not the germs!
- Create a chain of prayer flags or well wishes that can be delivered to the house and express the greetings of each family member or friend in a colorful yet quiet way!
- Schedule a video call for extended family to visit and see the new baby. If there are siblings, you can set these calls up for every day, but let mom and baby play hooky and stay in bed if they need to.
- Set up delivery of meals, and designate a delivery person who is comfortable getting it to the front door and not staying!
- Send mail. We’ve lost the art of letter writing and patience in waiting for physical mail, but it feels so good to get real mail! Bonus – it can be saved in a baby book for reading later!
- Create a family time capsule for baby to open years from now. You can include pictures, notes, and things that you’re enjoying as a family. Top ten lists of your favorite movies, books, music, family recipes, and restaurants can be fun. Have fun with this!
- Pitch in together on a gift that may be outside anyone’s individual budget. A lactation consult, a massage, a postpartum doula package, a housecleaning package, diaper service, portrait package, a month’s car payment or home rent – these are all ways to team up and help the new family feel the love of their tribe.
Thank you for supporting your friends, family, and their new baby!
Olga Ryan MS-NL, RN
Director, Babymoon Inn Tucson
Olga has been in Perinatal nursing since 1995 and in birth center nursing since 2006.