There’s nothing more excited than a new baby! Between observing deliveries in my third term of nursing school, researching on my own time (outside of school assignments), and personal experiences with family, friends, or patients, I feel there are some important topics that need to be reiterated. Coming from the perspective of a healthcare provider/another human being.
1. Always be mindful and ask permission
Ask mom and dad if it’s okay to hold their precious new bundle of joy. As exciting as it may be to cradle that tiny miracle of life, remember that mom just gave birth and her hormones are all over the place.
2. Don’t kiss the baby on the face or hands
This may ruffle some feathers but hear me out: babies have no immunity. At all. It’s RSV season and babies can die from getting sick. It would be the equivalent of kissing on someone’s face that just had chemotherapy.
I’ve read too many horror stories about newborns dying from herpes after being kissed by visitors. We know you’re excited and want to shower affection, but please, find other ways. If you must, kiss the baby on the back of the head while there is a cap on.
3. Reschedule visitation if you or someone in your household is sick
The human body is a large reservoir, where germs hangout and multiply. Even if you don’t feel any symptoms, that doesn’t mean the newborn is not at risk. Clothes are not only great for soaking up food and baby puke, but they are also great for germs to cling to. Politely decline and reschedule for another date in the future. Mom and dad will thank you!
4. Mom and dad need sleep
I have never experienced childbirth myself, however, after having a brief glimpse into the world of labor and delivery- I can completely understand why hospitals limit visitation. Labor can take hours, if not days. It’s exhausting, stressful, yet rewarding in the end.
Please understand how tired both mom and dad are. The body can only last so long after an adrenaline rush before it crashes. On top of that, mom has to deal with painful fundal massages to prevent hemorrhaging, learning to breast feed, and finding the energy to feed/bathe herself. Call ahead, please. And if you notice mom or dad struggling to stay awake, let them rest and come by later.
5. Privacy is important
Not only does the body need time to recover from delivery, but so does the mind. It’s uncomfortable laying naked, with an ugly paper drape on, legs (most likely unshaven) in those cold stirrups, spread apart for the world to see your lady garden at an annual female exam- I can only imagine how vulnerable delivery must feel.
Respect mom and dad by giving them alone time to not only bond as a new family, but to rest in private. Coming from someone that is an introvert, I very much dislike plans being dropped in my lap without my consent- and I don’t even have children yet. Just keep in mind the wishes of the parents; and if you don’t know, ask.
6. Help out
There’s nothing worse than being in a dirty house, with no energy to make a grilled cheese sandwich, let alone even think about loading the dishwasher. I read multiple blogs preparing for my L&D rotation (patient education purposes) and one of the biggest things new parents wish others knew was this: when coming to visit, ask what you can do to help.
Whether it be starting a load of laundry, vacuuming, or heating up some soup for lunch, help. Please. Or if baby has a massive blow out and mom or dad just got the chance to relax- offer to change the diaper. Most feel rude asking, or are hoping you will offer. So visitors- let’s step up our game! They need our help while trying to figure out this whole parenting thing, the least we can do is be supportive and proactive.
7. Be mindful of inappropriate topics
As I’ve mentioned earlier, new moms are emotional and sensitive. Regardless of the subjects they were comfortable participating in pre-pregnancy, don’t assume those perimeters are the same postpartum.
According to the American Anxiety and Depression Association, 18.1% of the population in the U.S. age 18 and older have a form of anxiety disorder. The following are twice as likely to affect women than men, or are more prevalent in women than men: General Anxiety Disorder, Panic Disorder, Major Depressive Disorder. These are just to name a few.
I know women that have cried watching holiday commercials, cried because they cut a tomato slice too thick, or cried because they made something and their spouse didn’t want to eat any right then.
Women that have anxiety or depression also have a limited listed of medicines that can be safely taken while pregnant or breast feeding. A lot of the popular SSRI’s & SNRI’s are contraindicated with pregnancy and can cause problems for baby. So please, coming from someone who suffers from GAD and MDD (and takes medication to help survive nursing school), be mindful and avoid sharing any horror stories.
You might not realize mom has bad anxiety/depression, causing her to lose sleep for the next few weeks because she’s terrified her baby will die of SIDS, be bitten by the family dog, choke and need CPR, or any other injury or death related stories.
8. Finally: Don’t give unsolicited advice.
We have alllll been guilty of this at some point. Myself included. And man do I wish I could go back in time and put duct tape over my own mouth. Why? Because my 2 cents wasn’t asked for and my unsolicited opinion sends the message to the parents that they are incompetent.
Regardless of what knowledge or experience one may have, don’t use it to criticize. Especially brand new parents. While parenting is an exciting new journey, it’s also scary and intimidating. New parents need our support: healthcare providers, family, friends, coworkers, and even yes, strangers!
Help them, don’t judge. If you see mom or dad struggling, offer to help. And if the help is declined, don’t take offense. We will never learn how to do something on our own if someone else is always doing it for us.
Having a new baby to love, spoil, and watch grow up to be the man, or woman, God intended them to be is such a blessing. While I may not be a (human) mother yet, I feel it is important to be an advocate and to share some insight from the perspective of not only a relative or friend, but also as a healthcare provider.
It’s so easy to get caught up in the excitement, and mom and dad are over the moon to have so many that love their new baby, but let’s remember to be courteous and respectful of the parents’ wishes and boundaries. They need our help and support. After all, that’s what we are for.