News just in: there is a new baby in your Whatsapp Group. You are looking at a photo of a little squishy human and thinking about when you will get to meet them. For some people it is really exciting to visit a new baby, but for others it can feel a bit daunting and completely out their comfort zone.
As a new mum, who previously felt anxious about the 'visiting a baby' etiquette, I want to offer my advice to put you at ease (and ensure you are the favourite guest!).
Patience is a virtue
My first tip is to wait until you're asked to visit. Family can be a bit more forceful about it and it's highly likely your friend has had excited family members invade their home. They will no doubt be dying to see their friends, but need a bit of rest first. It can be a bit grim recovering from birth, things are still happening to your body that are very confusing. Don't let Instagram fool you, it isn't just the baby wearing a nappy.
When you are invited to visit, don't dictate the time. Try and be as flexible as possible, it will help the new parents feel a bit calmer if there is a poo explosion when you are due to arrive. Don't be offended if they cancel last minute, sometimes it just gets a bit much and the new mum just hasn't got the strength to put on a brave front to her friends.
Once you are there, make yourself and the new parents a hot drink, the constant stream of guests in those early days can feel like quite a lot when you are only just functioning, and you can bet the dirty cups mount up. Be the favourite guest and wash up afterwards, you'll be invited back!
If you see some dishes that need doing, or the bins needing emptying, just do it without making a fuss. If you ask if you can help, the parents may feel a bit embarrassed to accept it, but if you just do it quietly they will be very grateful when they notice your little token of help.
Before we had a baby, my very heavy handed husband had never held one despite being in his 30s. In the past when we visited our friends who had babies he would avoid it and say 'what if I break it'. I know they look so small and fragile, but you really can't go wrong. It might really help mum if you hold the baby for a while, even just so she can eat with both hands. However, don't be offended if you aren't given the baby on your first visit. A new baby often only wants to be held by their mum, but equally new mums leave the hospital petrified that someone will give their babies germs or infections. It was drilled into me about new babies having undeveloped immune systems and it really put me on edge passing him to people.
What not to do
If mum doesn't want to talk about birth, just move on and don't pry. Not everyone has an amazing birth story and both mum and dad may be slightly traumatised! I know some people love to talk about birth, I never really understood this because I am a bit of a wimp when it comes to blood and guts (and I still am!) If they want to talk about it then try not to grimace too much, it might feel a bit like therapy for them.
Already a parent? Don't tell the new parents that it gets worse or that they will never sleep. I had a few people tell me things like 'enjoy the new born stage, when they start crawling it's a nightmare' or 'oh you're tired now? wait until they're teething.' It just isn't helpful. Telling new parents it will get worse is just a bit insensitive to the stage they're at, a bit of sympathy is all that is needed, it isn't the time to compete over who has it worse.
You can judge the situation at the time, but I would advise that you don't stay too long, its very awkward to try and hint for someone to leave so keep an eye on the time. If you get there and notice that mum is looking incredibly tired, perhaps don't stay and just make an excuse that you wanted to quickly say hello but have to be somewhere.
What to take?
You don't necessarily need to take a gift, especially if you have given a gift at the baby shower, but if you do want to take something here are a few ideas of things that new parents will absolutely love you for:
I cannot stress this enough, food is the best gift. Those first few weeks with a new born means all nutrition goes out the window. You don't have time to shop, never mind cook. Meals that parents can heat in the microwave are ideal, you don't need to have cooked them from scratch, even just a few shop bought microwave meals will be incredibly welcomed. A few people brought us food that we could keep in the freezer which was really helpful, having a full freezer when you have a baby is really helpful for when you run out of fresh food! Any kind of snacks are ideal too, especially for the new mamas. I was over the moon when people visited with cookies and chocolate. The night time feeds led me to keeping a box of cereal bars in the bedroom, often randomly having a snack at 3am because I was so hungry!
If you really want to impress, take mum a selection of foods she couldn't eat when she was pregnant. I'm talking brie, camembert, pepperoni, salami, raw fish sushi. My parents brought a buffet of cheese and meats when they visited and I had a great time reuniting with my beloved brie cheese whilst they held the baby. I probably looked like a ravenous cavegirl but no one dared to say anything.
I remember fondly those who brought me iced coffee, my baby was only a few weeks old when we had an extreme heatwave and I felt like it was too hot to go outside or in the car to get iced coffee myself. My friend hadn't even taken her shoes off and I was downing the iced coffee like I had been dehydrated for 6 months.
Iced coffee isn't always easy to take if you don't live near a coffee shop, but you could take some instant coffee to ensure they have plenty in their kitchen, especially with visitors depleting the coffee supplies. I unexpectedly ran out of coffee one day whilst I was still recovering and wasn't ready to walk to the shop on my own, I only just survived the day!
This divides new parents, flowers can be so lovely to receive as it's a gift for mum and brightens up the home which is suddenly full of nappies and baby puke. However some people feel like the last thing they need is to have to keep flowers alive as well as a small human. I would suggest if you take flowers you offer to put them in a vase with water for them. It sounds so simple but you are saving the parents a job. I received some beautiful flowers that were already in water so I didn't have to do anything, ideal!
Sweet, sweet, alcohol. It's a far cry from a cute baby gift, but honestly if you know your friend liked a nice glass of wine pre pregnancy, then her eyes will light up if you walk through the door with a bottle. A friend sent me a box of mini bottles of gin in the post, and I was SO happy with this gift. Yes of course I couldn't knock the gins back whilst cradling a new born, but it was nice to have my first gin and tonic in 9 months. So if you want to get the parents something, and haven't a clue what to buy for a baby, a little drink might just make you a legend.
Finally, don't tell new parents they look tired. They know they do. Looking back, it was out of character for me that I was willing to see so many people when I looked my absolute worst, at the time I hadn't even registered that they'd probably never seen me without makeup. Realistically I doubt they noticed. Just tell mum she looks great, anything that is a little confidence booster will make all the difference.