10 Rules of Etiquette to Follow When you Visit a New Mom

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I remember it well – the day that my twins were born. Since we’d found out 18 weeks prior to that moment in time that baby three was babies three and four, the “I’ll be there to help,” “I’ll take time off work so you can nap or do whatever you need to,” and the “Whatever you need,” conversations happened left and right. As a slight control freak with exceptionally regimented schedules (but flexible when there’s fun to be had) kind of mom, those are not promises I hoped our friends and family would keep. The day they were born, however, the chaos began. I went into labor at 11 am, was at the hospital by 1 and had the babies by 6:02 and 6:07 pm after less than 10 minutes in the operating room (no, seriously; it took them longer to wheel me in there and prep for the babies delivery – and to break baby B’s water – than it did for me to push them both out).

By the time we were back in our room – about 6:20 – our mothers, my dad, our friends and our family began to arrive. We were so grateful to have them there – I love hospital visitors because I’m completely relaxed, it’s not my house that people are messing up and crowding and someone else is handling everything for me and no one expects me to be a hostess. Also, my people bring me good food and that makes them extra welcome and special.

But imagine their disappointment (not that it matched ours, by any means) to realize that both our babies had been whisked off to the NICU because of size and respiratory issues (our daughter was 3 lbs. 15 oz. and our son was 5 lbs. even) and no one could see them that night. It was all right since their presence distracted us from the horror that was the absence of our babies.

For the following week, we had a constant stream of visitors bringing us food and additional clothes and also to see the babies in the NICU. Our oldest daughters were being shuffled between grandparents and school so we could stay with the babies, and we were a bit of a wreck, so appreciative of our friends and family and their constant presence. Fast forward to the day we finally got to bring our babies home. All we wanted to do was spend the day with our big girls and our babies and enjoy some peace and quiet. Nope. We had about a dozen people in and out that day. Parents, friends, family…and that was the day I decided that there are certain rules of etiquette that need to be enforced for those wishing to visit the new mama.

Ask about Preference

Whereas I love and adore when people come see me in the hospital after giving birth (I don’t have to worry about my house, I’m not hostess and I’m not distracted), others hate it. I have a friend who absolutely despises anyone visiting her in the hospital and wishes they’d come to see her at home instead. Do this; ask the new mother what she would prefer and go from there.

Schedule a Time

While I love my friends and family dearly, I always prefer when they schedule a time to visit us at home. For example, our group of amazing friends called and said, “We’d like to come over, make dinner, clean up and spend some time with you guys. What night is good for you?” and when we figured out a night, they did just that. They cooked, they cleaned, they brought their kids to play with our kids, they brought gifts and they fed babies and helped with every single thing that night. It was total awesomeness. And then there were those who would ring the doorbell at random “just in the neighborhood,” and completely interrupt the fact that the babies were napping and I was working, spending time with my big girls and uninterested in visiting.

Ask about Food Preferences

So many people brought us food, and we appreciate that. One of the wonderful women at our church began a food train for us in which the members cooked meals and brought them over for us to enjoy on different nights. It was lovely, and they asked what we prefer and what we love, and that was something special. We have plenty of people bringing over things we don’t prefer (or that I couldn’t eat at the time) and it was really a waste – not that we’d tell them that.

Do NOT Even Ask to Wake a Sleeping Baby

Ever. Don’t do it. You will immediately be downgraded to worst friend ever. I know, I know you want to hold the baby. I know you do. But don’t. Some moms like a schedule. With twins, we needed our babies to be on a schedule all the time, and waking them to hold one was not part of the schedule. When they’re sleeping, we’re able to do things we can’t do when they’re awake, so please…don’t. Refer to scheduling visits above. We know when the babies will be awake, so you can come then.

Respect the Boundaries

Here’s the deal, I know you work and you can’t stop by until 7:30, but that’s bed time for our older kids, so pick a different date and time. We might have new babies in the house, but we do like to keep our schedule in order to keep our kids sane (and us, too).

Take those Big Kids

If you promise a mom-to-be that you’re happy to come over and get older siblings out of the house for a park date or just to give mom time to nap with the babies one day, do it. Don’t say it and then not do it. She really needs these gestures, so keep your word – no broken promises, please.

Ask What Mom Needs

There were times when my friends and family would call me up before their visit and say, “What do you need,” and I could tell them that we really needed a gallon of milk or a bag of goldfish for the kids since we were out. They’d stop, grab it and it was no big deal. Those are the gestures that make you visits so much nicer and so much more appreciated. Sometimes, what I needed was just 10 minutes to shower alone. That’s all – ask.

Be Useful

No one likes doing dishes or vacuuming or putting laundry away, but do it if you see it. Ask first, of course, but do it. I do this for my friends. When I’m visiting and there is a new baby present, I put those dishes away, bring plastic ware and plastic plates and make sure that they have as little mess as possible to deal with when I’m gone. It makes me feel as if I’m being helpful.

Take Charge

We all have that one friend who should have been a dictator or ruler of the world. She’s so good and managing everything that we just need her to manage us. Be her. When you are visiting and there is a houseful of people, be the one that stands up and says, “Okay, let’s get our kids together and clean up their messes, put dishes away and head out. They’re tired and need some rest,” so that mom and dad and that new baby can actually rest.

Be Helpful

I was a new mom three times to four kids, and nothing – NOTHING – irritated my husband and I more than when someone would come over and ask to hold a perfectly content baby that’s sleeping or resting in a swing, bouncer or bed and then immediately hand the baby over to mom or dad the second baby spits up, uses its diaper or begins to fuss. Just so you know, those babies were down for a reason, and it was because we needed a break…so be helpful. We change plenty of diapers and wipe up plenty of spit up and deal with fussing all the time. If you cause it, you fix it.

Photo by Mario Tama/Getty Images

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