Unwritten rules: visiting new parents

Photo by Anna Hardy

As this is a family blog I’m presuming that most of you reading this will have been through (and survived) those early days of becoming a parent: the sudden responsibility, the shift of everyday life’s nature, the endurance test, the emotions… Like someone just shook up the snow globe you were living in and when the weird plastic snow settles the little snowman scene has now turned into a really big happy looking yeti.

Whether you’re currently post-partum party people and want to forward this on to your visitors or could do with a refresher, here are my top tips for visiting people with at least one new baby in the house!

Phone ahead
Are they still up for it? Do they just need to sleep after a mammoth session of baby settling? Do they need anything picking up on the way?

Bring provisions
Maybe offer to bring lunch, even if it’s nothing massively elaborate… picnic style ‘picky tea’, a mini buffet you can all graze on that doesn’t get cold while holding/changing/feeding the baby! Even if it’s just a cuppa you’re staying for maybe bring something sweet (they might not have made it out to stock up since the last lot of visitors). Sugar and caffeine propped me up at times in those early days… which I’m now weaning myself off.

Take your shoes off & wash your hands
This does sound slightly uptight but sometimes having a baby can send people into a bit of a Health & Safety obsessed mild neat freak mode. I remember silently assessing a framed picture on the wall above my first born’s cot… “What if there’s one of those weird earthquakes you sometimes get in the UK?”

Offer to make the drinks
Even if the people you’re visiting seem totally on form, still offer… They might just need that little break. Be generally useful, it’ll mean a lot to them.

A gift doesn’t have to be ‘gifty’
A pack of nappies, food to chuck in the freezer for another day, a bottle of gin (maybe not for the breastfeeding times)… These were all memorable, thoughtful gifts we were happy to receive. One Sunday morning some friends of ours knocked on the door, handed us a full english breakfast, got in their car and drove off… that’s a gift!

Make small plans with them
They’re going through a massive adjustment and somehow need to be reminded that you don’t see them as feeding machine hermits but still as individuals with interests other than their baby. Letting them know that you’re still up for doing stuff with them (with and without their baby), even though they can’t be spontaneous at the moment, is a good thing… A bit of off-baby-duty time just needs a little notice, but can be done. They want to hear about you too… life in the outside world is exciting.

Don’t stay too long
They’re knackered. After an hour suggest leaving… if they genuinely want you to stay longer ask when would be a good time to leave.

Give them a bit of leeway
If they seem a bit out of sorts, spaced out or over react about something out of character, there’s a massive chance it’s just the heady base layer of sleep deprivation, exhaustion, mild shock and probably hormones that they’ve been cruising along on.

Leave no trace
Let’s face it… they have a little new person to feed, wind, change and mildly freak out over… The last thing they want is to clear up after another full grown human.

Reassure them
They’re doing a grand job.



  1. This is great advice Caroline. As a mum of 4 (and ex-community midwife), I can’t tell you how many times I have come across visitors turning up (with their kids plus runny noses), expecting food and cups of tea, and far outstaying their welcome. The early days are precious bonding time for the family, I really think people should wait to be asked and give at least a 7 day grace.

  2. Oh and please don’t wear really strong perfume! There’s nothing worse than getting your precious little bubba back stinking of another woman!

  3. This might sound mean… but if you have a ‘spirited’ toddler maybe consider leaving them at home, just this one time!

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