15 things NOT to do when visiting a newborn

You risk facing the wrath of a new mother if you don’t abide by these essential rules.

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Don’t you just love newborns? They’re all soft and squishy, with their pinkish skin, tiny finger and toe nails, and tuft of soft, soft baby hair.

But don’t get ahead of yourself and rush to the hospital the minute you hear that your bestie or a relative has given birth ― there are things you need to know.

First, the new parents are going to be tired. We’re not talking about a post-workout, or end- of-a-long-day-at-work type of tiredness. We’re talking about full-blown fatigue with no idea when they’ll get to enjoy their next instalment of two hour-long uninterrupted sleep.

Second, the new mum is likely to be feeling frumpy, hormonal, and desperately in need of a warm shower. So, tread carefully and throw all your expectations out of the window, because only her opinion matters right now.

Boundaries for visits can be sensitive, so make sure to follow a certain etiquette. Here are some things you absolutely should not do. Don’t:

1. Show up unexpectedly

Newborns need to be in their mothers’ arms and on the breast for a large part of the day ― which means that you might disrupt the new mum’s and baby’s day a fair bit when you show up unannounced.

In addition, the baby may have colic and is crying for hours, the new mum may be sore from her C-section wound, or she may even be suffering from postnatal depression. Do the new family a favour ― send them your good wishes and congratulations and say that you’d love to meet the new addition, then wait for an invitation.

2. Make a lot of noise

Visiting a new baby is not the same as attending a toddler’s third birthday party. Don’t ring the doorbell, or knock loudly ― you’ll never know if mummy has just put bubba down for a much-needed nap. Speak in hushed, gentle tones, and take your cue from the new parents as to how much noise or movement you can make.

Overstimulation is a real thing, especially when it comes to newborns. Get them too worked up, and the wee one may be crying for hours all night long, much to their parents’ chagrin.

Newborns are extremely vulnerable, so, the new mum’s maternal instinct to protect her baby is very strong.

3. Grab or kiss the baby

Newborns are extremely vulnerable, so, the new mum’s maternal instinct to protect her baby is very strong. Most new mums would be upset if you assume that you can just grab the baby for a cuddle. Even if you ask, they may feel torn but obligated to pass their baby to you unwillingly. So, wait to be offered ― if she wants you to hold the baby she will ask you.

Never, ever kiss a baby on the lips, or even the face. Babies are extremely susceptible to germs and diseases, which you may be carrying even when you don’t feel sick. If you can’t resist kissing and cuddling the baby when you visit, it’s better to just send a card. The parents will thank you.

4. Come over when you’re sick

Don’t risk it. What may feel like mild flu to you, may turn into bronchiolitis for a newborn, or something even more serious. You don’t want to be known as that friend who came over and made the baby sick.

5. Smoke, or arrive just after smoking

New mums are extremely sensitive to smells, and anything that can put their baby in danger! Anyone reeking of cigarette smoke will certainly set off alarm bells in her head. According to a study published in the journal Pediatrics, third-hand smoke, or the toxins that linger in carpets and other fabrics and materials days after the cigarette is put out, poses a health hazard for infants.

6. Hog the baby, especially if he or she is crying

You may have had three or even four kids, but it doesn’t mean that you know how to soothe your pal’s baby. Most mums start to feel extremely stressed and anxious listening to their baby cry in another person’s arms. Hand the little one back to his mum. He may need a feed, a change of diaper, or maybe, he just misses her smell.

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7. Leave out the siblings

Getting a new sibling can be a challenging experience for any young child. The attention is now focused on the littlest in the family, and older siblings often feel sidelined by their parents, family members and other visitors. This can cause much resentment.

Instead of showering the new baby with affection and gifts, turn your attention to the older kids ― get them a little gift or simply spend more time talking to them, asking them how they feel now that they’re the big gor gor or jie jie. This will help them feel better about their new role, and you’ll help the parents deal with any unwanted feelings of jealousy.

8. Assume your kids can come

Again, this visit is not a party! Sure, your offspring may be curious to see the new baby, and are longing to pinch some chubby cheeks, but always ask the new parents if your own kids are welcome. Toddlers, especially, tend to handle delicate babies roughly, and this can put new parents in a spot.

Ideally, keep this visit strictly to the adults ― your kids can always visit their new little friend in a couple of months when things have settled.

9. Be late

Newborn babies adhere to a rigourous schedule of sleeping, feeding and diaper-changing. New mums are an important part of that schedule, and often need to squeeze in time to express breastmilk, sterilise the bottles and get some rest of her own. Sometimes, even putting the baby down to go to the bathroom can be a chore.

Don’t leave her expecting your visit for hours. The last thing she wants is to be greeting visitors with leaky boobs and a crying baby. Drop her a message if you’re going to be late ― ask her what is the best time for you to visit her and make sure you adhere to her schedule.

The attention is now focused on the littlest in the family, and older siblings often feel sidelined by their parents, family members and other visitors.

10. Wake the baby

We know you want that photo cuddling that brand-new baby, but if the baby is asleep, let her sleep! You never know how long her mum had held her, rocked her or nursed her into that state, so don’t rock the boat now! Anyway, waking a sleeping baby will likely result in a cranly, screaming baby, which won’t make for a good photo opportunity anyway.

11. Expect to be served

Don’t expect the new parents to be hosts of the year at this time ― guests should expect any food or drinks! Instead, offer help where you think you can. Bring something yummy for the new mum as a gift, pour her a warm drink, and ask her if you can do anything to help. Spot dishes in the sink, or baby clothes to be folded? Get busy ― and the mum will be eternally grateful!

12. Give unwanted advice

One of the biggest no-nos for new mums? Unsolicited advice. Nope, you do not know why her baby refuses to be put down for a nap, and you do not know what diaper cream suits her child best, so don’t pretend that you do. Of course, if she asks for your advice, offer if freely, in an understanding tone, and don’t judge her for her decisions ― which brings us to our next point.

13. Judge

The new mum does not need reminders that her hair is in a mess and that she’s got milk stains on her blouse. She doesn’t need someone “tsk-tsk-ing” at how she is latching her baby, or telling her that she is burping her baby wrongly. What she needs is a listening ear and some assurance that she’s doing things right. Whether you’re a relative, a sister or a friend, let her know that she’s doing a great job ― sometimes, that’s all a new mum needs to hear.

14. Overstay

Unless the new mum asks you to extend your visit, don’t overstay your welcome. Half an hour to 45-minutes is a good amount of time to visit a new baby. Stay any longer and your visit becomes a chore for the new family. Trying to be sociable, put on a smiley face and engage in conversation can be downright exhausting for a new mum.

15. Post photos without permission

This is one of the biggest faux pas. New parents can be extremely sensitive when it comes to allowing their baby’s pictures to be posted on Facebook. There are privacy and safety concerns, and perhaps, the new mum may not have made the birth announcement via social media yet. Don’t let their out-of-town relatives find out about the baby’s birth via your Facebook feed!

Photo: iStock

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