Your friend or family members have just had a new baby, congratulations! You, being the wonderful person you are, want to meet this new little addition to their world. But how to do so in a way that fully supports this new family? I’m so glad you asked.
New babies have special health needs that people with more mature immune functions do not. Because of this there are times when it is okay to visit and times when you should wait until later. I will go over some important rules for visiting babies in this post.
Firstly, when should you visit? Some parents would love to have folks over right away, maybe even in the hospital (if they are having the baby there). If you have been invited to the home or hospital and are feeling well then more than likely this is a good time to go.
An invitation from those new parents is absolutely key! You should probably talk with them before the big day to find out what they’d like to do regarding visits and then check in again once baby has come. It is possible those bright eyed and bushy tailed pre-labor parents are now just wanting to rest and connect with baby. Check in again in a few days to see if they’re up for guests.
Many families like to do a two week ‘babymoon’ where it’s just the parent(s) and baby and perhaps some very close friends/family members or a post-partum doula. Once that two-week period is up the new family may be more ready for visitors. Click here to find out more about doulas
You have gotten that coveted invite from the new family: what should you bring? While flowers and a cute little outfit will more than likely be well received, many families would prefer things like:
-Food the parent(s) like. I would suggest asking before you see them if there are any particular foods they would like for their fridge or freezer or for right away. For out of town friends/family: We were living out of state when some close family friends had their baby and we had a pizza delivered to their hospital room after asking them if they’d like one. One of my friends has a very special recipe for lactation supporting muffins she makes for new moms.
-Things on their registry. Ask if they are registered anywhere and then, well, get them what they’ve asked for. If you can’t find anything on their registry that you want to give them/can afford I would highly suggest a gift card to wherever they are registered or good old fashioned cash.
-If you are visiting a new family at home and they are up for it/feel comfortable with the idea I am a huge fan of helping out with chores around the house. Do some dishes, take out the trash, make some food for the fridge, do a load of laundry (at least to the point of putting it in the dryer so they don’t forget about it and end up with moldy laundry: ew!) or fold some laundry. I’ve found helping out at someone else’s home with chores is a lot more like playing house than doing work.
-If there are any siblings then perhaps you could bring a little something for them as well to help them feel more a part of everything. Spend some time talking to/connecting with them, and don’t just talk about the baby with them. Some siblings can end up feeling forgotten in all the hubbub around a new baby.
When you shouldn’t come for a visit:
-If the parents ask for some time without visitors.
-If you or someone you need to bring are ill. If you’re feeling run down, tired for no good reason, have a bit of a tickle in your throat, have a rash that showed up and you don’t know where it came from: please don’t share with the new baby.
While we can get over a cold pretty quickly most of the time new babies aren’t as lucky.
-If you have a cold, the flu, Mono, Shingles, have recently been around other people who have been ill: please don’t visit! Babies immune functions are nowhere near as good as ours. Shingles can lead to Chicken Pox (aka Varicella).
Also, if you have a cold sore or the prodrome for a cold sore (tingling feeling, itchiness or pain on or around your lips) DO NOT KISS the baby! Make sure you wash your hands very, very thoroughly before touching baby: lots of soap and hot water scrubbed around on your hands/under your fingernails for at least 30 seconds is good.
It is best not to kiss or touch baby on the face or hands in general. Touching covered feet or their covered head is a better way of giving baby some loving while preventing possibly getting them ill.
Make sure you and your family members are up to date on vaccines to protect baby from severe illnesses such as Pertussis, Measles, Mumps and the flu. Older people may want to get vaccinated against Pneumonia and Shingles. If for whatever reason you are unvaccinated or under-vaccinated and there is any kind of illness then do not visit until you are well and baby is older.
If you are a smoker please wash your face and hands thoroughly with soap and water and change your outer clothing to prevent exposing baby to toxins from the cigarettes, etc. There are concerns that smokers are more likely to carry the HIB bacteria in their nasal passages as well. HIB bacteria can lead to ear infections that can sometimes lead to meningitis, which is a life threatening condition.
When holding the baby: please sit down if you are young or unsteady. Make sure you protect the baby’s head by supporting the baby’s head/neck.
At the end of the day, please remember: parents are usually under slept and overwhelmed. Don’t overstay your welcome, don’t give unsolicited advice and be aware of how sensitive the parents might be to a passing comment. Click here to see some comments that should be avoided.
Dr. Corinne Harpster is a naturopathic physician who specializes in children's health. She is currently accepting new patients.