If someone in your family or group of friends recently had a new baby, you probably want to visit, check in, or try to help in some way. Because you are a kind and lovely person.
But, to the uninitiated, your gestures could have unintended effects, ie. a chronically sleep-deprived new parent cursing your name and vowing revenge because you rang the doorbell and woke the damn baby. You break it, you buy it!
It can be so hard to know what a new parent needs or wants (and doesn’t need or want), but, luckily, you have us.
We’ve been there, both as the new parent and the person trying to help. And we have tips.
Don’t: Wake the baby
Sleep is precious, and in new babies, unpredictable. Chances are a new parent is desperately trying to get their kid to nap (not in their arms, for once) so they can have a much-needed break, a nap themselves, or in an attempt to get baby on a sleep schedule.
So, whatever you do: don’t wake the baby. This includes not ringing the doorbell when you arrive for a visit (always knock quietly), not cold-calling a new parent (chances are their phone is on their person), not picking up a sleeping baby just because you want a cuddle, and not making loud noises if you happen to be visiting a new parent while baby is napping.
Sure, doing the dishes is a helpful and lovely gesture, but clanging pots and pans around while baby is napping will likely get you a death stare at best and an eviction notice at worst.
Don’t: Wake the parent
Equally important is not to wake a new parent. Sleep is like a magical, elusive unicorn in those first few months with a baby, and parents need those Zzzs any chance they can get.
You don’t know when their day started or ended. Maybe baby was up all night fussing and cluster-feeding, and the new parent’s “night” of sleep starts at 8 a.m. Don’t be that accidental jerk who texts them at 8:40 to say wassup or share a Baby Yoda meme, thus waking them from their fitful dreams about checking into a hotel alone.
A good rule is to always looks for signs of life before you contact a new parent in the morning hours. Are they online? Did they just “like” your FB status? Have they posted something on social media in the last hour? Did they just text you to say “OHMYGOD IM DYING WHEN DO BABIES SLEEP??”
If yes, it’s probably safe to reach out.
Don’t: Make unhelpful comments
You don’t have to keep your mouth shut. A new parent is likely craving adult conversation, after all. But do everyone a favour and keep the unhelpful comments to yourself.
An unhelpful comment or question tells a parent something they already know, questions something they’re already doing, or makes them feel like shit in general.
Here are some examples of comments to avoid:
- “Oh, you look so tired!” THANKS WE KNOW.
- “Is that formula really a good idea?” GFY.
- “Did you sleep any better last night?” OF COURSE NOT.
- “He doesn’t seem to want to take the breast.” BACK AWAY FROM MY BOOBS.
- “You’re really starting to drop the baby weight.” LITERALLY THE LEAST OF MY CONCERNS, BUT THANKS FOR THE REMINDER
- “Weird, my babies were such good sleepers.” GTFO OF MY HOUSE.
Here are some better options:
- “Why don’t I hold the baby so you can lie down?” BLESS.
- “Look at her go on that formula!” YAY.
- “Can I order you in a coffee?” YES ALWAYS.
- “I remember how hard breastfeeding was. Can I get you a glass of water?” THANKS I’M FRIGGING PARCHED.
- “You’re doing such a great job.” *CRIES FOR NO REASON, BUT POSSIBLY RELIEF?*
- “I brought cake.” *CRIES OF HAPPINESS*
Don’t: Bring sickness into the house
We cannot emphasize this one enough. If you are sick, stay away from new parents and their babies. A simple sniffle can be life-threatening to newborns. On a smaller scale, a cold is miserable for new parents who can’t exactly sleep it off, and can wreak havoc on a new baby’s sleep.
If you’re under the weather, do not visit. Simple. It might seem hard to avoid in the winter months, when it seems like everyone is walking around with at least a minor cold, but you’re not doing new parents any favours by showing up germy.
If you have young kids who are sick, stay away. If you have young kids who aren’t sick at this very moment, always ask the new parent before you bring them along to visit. They might want you to hold off until their baby has their first round of vaccinations.
(We have a newborn niece we have literally only seen twice in two months because our toddler is constantly sick. It sucks, but not as much as the thought of our teeny tiny niece battling viral pneumonia).
Even if you’re not sick, always wash your hands and use hand sanitizer before you touch a newborn. If you’re not immunized, or your kids aren’t, make sure the new parent knows this before you visit, and try not to be offended when they politely rescind your invite.
Do: Keep reaching out
If we’ve given you the impression that new parents just want you to stay away, the opposite is true. New parenthood can be incredibly isolating, and social visits and offers of help are truly appreciated and loved.
Even if you accidentally woke the baby one time, or a new parent snapped at you because you asked if baby is sleeping through the night yet, don’t give up. We still love you underneath the sleep-deprivation, hormones, and overwhelming reality that we have to keep a small human alive. In fact, we need you.
Keep reaching out. Keep checking on us. And for the love of god, bring food. We’re effing starving.
Santa Photo Fails
Also on HuffPost: