The Great Friend Guide to Visiting New Parents

The Great Friend Guide to Visiting New Parents

By Yahna Fookes   |  

How to make sure you're a help (not a hindrance) to your friends then they're in the thick of it.

Those first 6 weeks after birth are huge. Trying to heal, and process your birth whilst mastering the art of breastfeeding on very little sleep is, well, a lot. To add to the noise, your phone probably feels is blowing up with hundreds of unread texts and DM’s from loved ones asking how it's all going and if they can drop by to meet the baby. The onslaught of visitors for the first few weeks for new parents is real. During this time you need to remember, you're not a host, you are a new parent. And if you’re currently in this postpartum haze or have been there, you’ll know that it’s the smallest of things that can unravel you. Dirty teacups in the sink, a missed nap or lost opportunity to wash your hair can be triggers for a hard day or an even harder night.

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I often wonder what it is about those first six weeks and why only fresh babes are so famous? Perhaps it’s because you are deemed hot off the press? Surely kids are still as adorable 3 months in and you are just as significant? Does the new mother get forgotten after this time? Food for thought.

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Culturally, we have grown up in an environment of social politeness. When you are invited to a dinner party you’d always ask “what can I bring?” and your host's response will enviability be “you just need to bring yourself”. Notice how both the question and the answer are entirely culturally pre-programmed? We find it hard to set boundaries, ask for help, and put our own needs first.

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On her second baby (who never asked for help first round), my friend would text the recipe of what she wanted to be cooked when asked what she needed. I loved her directness. When you have two tiny beings (one who is a toddler) to keep alive, there is no time to not cut to the chase.

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The main thing to remember is that your friends and family only have good intentions, but probably don't know what you need. Particularly if you are the first to have a kid in your immediate circle of friends. So when they ask, "what can I do?", tell them. You'll both feel better after they've whizzed the vacuum around. You because the floor's clean, them because they did something helpful and made you feel better. If you're in it, and don't have the energy or headspace to give direction, maybe just share this article. Casual. .

How to Be a Great Friend When Visiting New Parents

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Go at a time that suits

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“Witching hour” is a term used to refer to the time when babies are most volatile and happens typically from 5pm until 11pm so try to keep your visits during the day. Never show up announced, new parents are trying to find a flow, so they’ll let you know what time suits. Don’t be offended if this catch up changes 50 times or they cancel on you. Finding your footing with a new baby is tough work and things are unpredictable. Typically a good time will be around 9am or 1pm — times when they'll be hungry, so bring them something to eat.

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Bring the next meal

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Nothing says “I’ve got you” in those first few weeks better than food. If you’re coming just before lunch bring a yummy sandwich and a coffee or if you’re visiting in the later afternoon a casserole/curry for dinner. Getting dinner on the table is hard for new parents who like all mammals need food to function, so taking care of food takes so much pressure off.

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Make yourself useful

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If you bring flowers, put them in a vase when you get there. A gift? Get rid of the wrapping once they've opened it. Coffee? Take the empties when you leave. After the "goo’s" and "gaah’s", and your undivided attention has been given, make yourself useful. Perhaps the new mum is feeding and whilst you are chatting you could unpack the dishwasher, fold a pile of clothes or even change the bins. Small gestures like this mean the world, and they wouldn't ask you, so just do it. Before you leave, put a load of laundry on the line, or take their dog for a walk. Take something off their list. Good and close friends should feel comfortable with getting their hands dirty so if this isn’t you, perhaps your visit isn’t needed till later down the track.

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Keep it short and sweet (40mins max)

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It’s important not to overstay your welcome. New babies have a three hour cycle of feeding, sleeping and awake time — it's like five days in one — so keep your visit short, meaningful, and sweet. The 40 mins rule should be enough time to help, show your support and leave without being a burden. Ofcourse, if they ask you to stay to do something helpful like hold their baby while you shower. Cancel whatever else you were going to do and stay to help them. They'll never need you more than now.

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No fragrance, please

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Heavy perfumes and artificial fragrances can send babes crazy making them fussy and confused. All they have known is the womb and their mother's smell until this point, so a heavy Byredo fragrance can easily attach itself to their skin with a single cuddle. Sounds small but these things make a huge difference. Similarly, incase you do hold the baby, wear something soft. Your studded leather jacket is a total vibe but not very cuddle-friendly.

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Ask if you can hold the baby (never assume)

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Newborn cuddles are the best and 9 times out of 10 mums are happy to hand their baby to you. In fact lots of new parents use their guests as an opportunity to rest, reprieve or even take a nap. However, the golden rule for all guests is to never assume. Ask, and if they say no, don't be offended. It’s essential to refrain from kissing the baby. Remember newborns have immature immune systems so they are prone to picking up all types of things and herpes, colds and COVID, so be sure to be mindful in their presence.

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Good vibes only

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No doubt you want the best for the person you are visiting or you wouldn't be there but reassuring words, words of affirmation and care can instil confidence and radiant love in a new parents home. New parenting is full of self-doubt and hiccups, so be there to listen and see them. No doubt they'll ask how you are, and when you share, keep it light and positive. They aren't going to keep track of you're very nuanced office dramas nor do they need anything else to worry about right now. For this visit, good vibes only.

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