The new baby is here! And you are so excited to meet that brand new bundle of joy. You may have waited your whole life for that new grandbaby, nephew, cousin, etc. It’s going to take everything in you not to run into the hospital, throw your arms open wide, and be the first to hold that baby, because, let’s face it, new babies are just the greatest!
But before you go rushing in, here are 5 rules to keep in mind when visiting newborns:
Please wait. Please. This is a delicate time for mamas and newborns. They just met. Their whole world has changed. Their little family has grown. They need time to bond and simply gaze at each other. There’s feedings to sort out and possible medical concerns. Add to that recovery from labor and well, they’re going to need a minute.
Labor is a lot of work and chances are high everyone is exhausted. Birth is a big deal. Please don’t assume you’re automatically invited just because you are family or a close friend. Give this mama that you love the courtesy of asking when it’s okay to visit and then respect their answer. I know it can be hard to wait when your heart is about to burst with pride, joy, excitement, #allthefeels, but…it’s not about you. It’s about what’s best for mama and her new baby. Please don’t take it personally if you aren’t invited into the room the moment the cord is cut or even a week after. Wait for your invitation. By all means, let mama know you would like to visit…but once you’ve told her, wait to be asked.
2. Wash Your Hands.
The first thing you *should* do when entering a house with a new baby is wash your hands. It should be automatic: Walk in. Wash your hands. Don’t touch the baby, their blanket, their toys—nothing—until you have washed your hands. Protecting the baby and mom’s health is very important. Minimalize their risk of exposure to outside germs by voluntarily washing your hands. If you forget in the moment with all the excitement and you are asked to wash your hands before holding the baby, don’t take offense. A mama’s job is to look out for her baby first. Show your understanding by respectfully honoring her request. Take it a step further by just doing it in the first place. Wash your hands. It’s a small gesture that shows you care about baby.
3. Be Healthy.
Do. Not. Show. Up. If. You. Are. Sick. Again, you may have waited your whole life to meet this child, but if you are sick, you don’t get to visit, sorry. I feel your disappointment, but that’s a hard line you DO NOT cross. Put the child’s health needs above your own desires. You have your whole life to know this child. Not seeing him/her in the first week of life isn’t going to matter in the bigger picture. It’s disappointing, especially if you hold a family title, but it’s just not worth it. Endanger a new baby and you risk your future relationship with them.
And when you are healthy enough to visit, pay attention to good hygiene. You know to wash your hands, but there may be a few other details to consider. Trim your fingernails (long nails can scratch the baby’s delicate skin and hold dirt and germs more easily). Pull your hair back (to keep it off baby’s face and away from their cute little searching hands). Wear clean clothes (this may seem obvious, but trust me friends, it deserves a brief mention).
4. No Strong Scents.
Long story short, hormones after birth make mom and baby more sensitive to smells. It’s biological. It’s important. On new baby day, DON’T put on your usual perfume or cologne. It’s not good for babies to inhale strong scents, especially if they have had breathing troubles at birth. Their lungs are developing.
There’s a reason newborns have that ‘sweet smell.’ If you wear a heavy scent and hold the baby, your scent is going to mask the bonding scents that are important to mom and baby. Don’t get in the way of mom/baby bonding simply because you’re in the habit of putting on perfume. Baby smell > your smell. Again, it’s a small gesture that goes a long way in showing how much you care about baby.
(Side note: This includes cigarette smoke. Third hand smoke is real. You’re an adult, I’m not going to lecture you. If you are a smoker, please do a quick online search to educate yourself about the effects of cigarette smoke on babies. You don’t want to hand the baby back to his mom smelling like cigarettes. Please do some quick, up-to-date research before visiting).
5. Keep It Short.
When you do visit a mom and new baby, don’t overstay your welcome. A 15-30 minute visit is more than enough time to meet a baby. An hour tops. Unless you are specifically asked to stay longer, keep it short. You are one person in a long line of folks knocking on the door to meet baby. Back to back visitors can be overwhelming to mamas who are on the mend.
Feel like that’s just not enough? Don’t arrive empty-handed. Bring food. Drop it off and go. Ask if there is laundry that needs folded or switched out. Ask the mom what she needs…offer a snack, water, cup of tea, or simply a hug. Being helpful can fill you up just as much as new baby snuggles.
Frankin D. Roosevelt once said, “Be sincere, be brief, be seated.” I’m pretty sure he wasn’t talking about visiting a newborn, but these ideas absolutely apply: Be sincere in putting mom & baby’s needs above your own. (If baby cries and the mom wants her baby back, hand her back). Be brief with your visit. Sit down when holding the baby.
These “rules” are about being thoughtful and loving. They are about health and healing. They are about giving moms and new babies the time, space, and consideration they need. They are about putting baby’s needs above your own. That’s love. And isn’t love what new babies are all about?