If you are invited, or invite yourself, over to visit with mom & new baby please refrain from the following… (All of these things come from personal experience or from the experiences of my friends/family)
Side note – my husband is not nearly as bothered by any of these things as I am. I think that men, in general, just aren’t as bothered by this stuff. They also don’t have hormones pulsing crazily through them and haven’t gone through 9 months of pregnancy followed by labor and delivery. They may have witnessed and supported us through it, but they didn’t physically experience it and all of it’s hormonal glory. My husband actually takes some pride in #12 & people wanting to lay claim to our baby. He says “Who doesn’t want to be on a winning team” and our baby is WINNING! 🙂
1. Making any jokes referring to how inadequately mommy is caring for baby & that you’ll just have to take baby home with you to care for him properly. Really, who would think that’s funny or a good idea? I mean REALLY?
2. Offering any unsolicited advice. Really, don’t offer any. Do not tell her what her baby needs or how she ought to be doing something. Just because she doesn’t do something the way that you did/do or the way your doctor told you to doesn’t mean that she’s doing something wrong. Really, really, really – keep your mouth shut if you are a man. There were times I wanted to smack my husband for offering breastfeeding advice. He was just trying to love me & help. I didn’t find it helpful at all. If you are having a conversation about life with baby and mom asks about something, then answer her question. I do have friend who offered unsolicited but very welcome advice about cloth diapering. She offered it via email so I didn’t have to sit and listen to this advice if I didn’t want to.
3. Wearing copious amounts of anything that has any scent to it. Perfume, hair products, body powder, etc. When you douse yourself in these products it can really bother both mom and baby. All those hormones raging and (sometimes) enhanced sense of smell means that these scents can be H.E.L.L. for mommy. Babies have sensitive senses, too. They use their sense of smell to help recognize their mama, find their mama’s breasts for nursing, etc – especially when they are very young and their eyesight hasn’t fully developed. When you’re covered in a strong scent, it can interfere with baby’s ability to sniff out mama or mama’s milk. One other thing to think about – while your scent may smell just lovely on you, if you hold baby it will transfer to baby and NO mama wants to have their baby handed back to them smelling like anyone OTHER than their baby. I have one friend who would demand that her husband give their newborn a bath immediately after certain visitors because they always wore very strong smelling perfume & she couldn’t stand the way her baby smelled after they held her.
4. Don’t take things personally. This really isn’t about you. This isn’t about how often you get to see the baby or hold the baby or feed the baby, etc. This isn’t about you. Get over yourself. Also, remember that new parents have to deal with a lot of well meaning but sometimes very annoying people. You may not do anything to annoy them but just happen to catch them after a particularly long or annoying engagement. They may be tired and feeling raw. Take some comfort or pride in the fact that the new parents might feel so comfortable with you that they don’t have to hide how tired/raw/annoyed they are. Don’t hold it against them or baby.
5. If you want to see the family, don’t always expect them to come to you. Sometimes the idea of getting a newborn & all their paraphernalia ready for an outing is daunting enough to keep parents hiding out at home. Call ahead (because surprise visits can be very stressful – especially if mommy hasn’t bothered to get out her pjs and baby is screaming when you arrive) & schedule a time to either visit the family in their home (offer to bring coffee or a meal, or to take care of baby so mom can get a shower, or help fold laundry, etc – mom may decline all of your offers but she’ll be grateful for the thought) or someplace very close to their home (which means they won’t have to pack as much stuff for baby because they won’t be out all day).
6. Don’t show up at the family’s door uninvited or unexpected. This was mentioned above but it bears repeating and deserves it’s own number on the list. Really, don’t do this to the family. Just because they let you in – that doesn’t mean they want you there. They’re probably just being nice because they couldn’t think of a polite way to avoid you. The ONLY exception to this is if you are a very close friend or family member who lives very far away, therefore making opportunities to see each other very few and far between. I can think of one family that I would be okay with them showing up with very short notice (I’d say unexpectedly but they are too considerate to do that). We love them dearly, they love us, and we only get the chance to see each other once every couple of years. I also trust that we won’t have to deal with any passive-aggressive comments about the status of our home or judgement over how messy it is. We have a few close friends who I don’t worry about the state of our home with either, but they live much closer & we have more opportunities to see them. 😉
7. Don’t try to guilt new parents into doing something they don’t want to do. If parents ask you to refrain from doing something, don’t call them out in front of other people or try to make them feel guilty about it. They are the parents and what they say goes. You need to respect that.
8. Don’t go baby crazy. This means a few different things… First, it’s really difficult to remain polite and friendly with people who had no interest in getting to know you or spending time with you prior to you having a baby. Suddenly, here’s baby and people come out the woodwork because they want to cuddle baby. What’s worse is that these people seem to feel they have an absolute right to demand to see baby whenever and wherever they please. You have no rights to this baby or family at all. If you didn’t feel a need to demand that the parents come out and visit with you every time you were in town prior to them having a baby then you need to think twice about demanding that they bring their baby out to see you. Second, it really sucks to bring baby out to see people, only to have them grab at baby and completely ignore your existence, until the baby starts crying. Then they hand the baby back to you for you to “fix” whatever is wrong, while simultaneously offering unsolicited advice about what baby needs. It’s also very uncomfortable to try to breastfeed baby (especially for first time moms) while people are just staring at you. Don’t do that. Finally, babies have the ability to heal schisms in families. That is such a blessing but please remember that this may take some time. Try to cultivate a relationship with the parents beyond the baby. Be patient with them as feelings & schisms heal. Recognize that there may be issues that pop up and need to be resolved.
9. If you invite new parents someplace, you should expect that they’ll have baby with them. If you don’t want them to bring baby or know that you’re inviting them someplace that isn’t baby friendly, don’t get upset if they decline your invitation.
10. Don’t make comments about either mom or dad’s work situation or ask questions about the family’s financial status. It isn’t your business at all. They’ll work out what is best for their family. Keep your nose out.
11. DO NOT SHARE HORROR STORIES. Pregnant moms don’t need to hear about how painful/awful/scary, etc you or your friend’s or your friend’s brother’s girlfriend’s sister’s birth was. New moms don’t need to hear about babies who died in random/obscure/freak accidents. They don’t need to hear about any of that. They need love and support and those stories aren’t loving or supportive. They are scary and they cause parents to question their judgement & abilities. God forbid something actually happens to their baby – what has sharing these stories accomplished? Nothing.
12. Don’t call the baby “my baby”. Did you carry the baby for 9 (ish) months? Did you help create the baby? Did you go through labor? Are you the baby’s mom or dad? No? Then this isn’t “your baby” and you should not refer to baby as “my baby”. I don’t know if there is any better way to piss off a new mom, especially. That baby is her baby, not yours. Recognize that. Are you a grandparent? Then that is your grand baby. Feel free to claim that. 🙂 I remember hearing stories about how my grandpa used to refer to me as “my girl”. He’d say things like “There’s my girl”. If you are a family member, godparent, or very close friend (i.e. honorary aunt/uncle status) then referring to the baby as “my girl” or “my boy” would generally be acceptable, too. However, if mom or dad asks you to refrain from calling the baby anything other than their name/nickname (i.e. no “my baby”, “my girl”, “my boy”, “my little man”, “sugar plum”, “sweetheart”, “pretty lady”, “handsome man”, etc) then don’t argue, pout, or take it personally. Refer back to #7 and respect the parents’ wishes.
Do you have anything to add to the list? Share below! 🙂