What’s the average amount of time you spend when you visit friends? An hour? Two? It varies depending on your gossiping skills and what kind of biscuits she puts out.
But be aware: If your girlfriend has just given birth and you decide to pop in with a present that you spent ages choosing, (but the baby will only wear once), there will be no biscuits.
There will be no gossip unless she asks for news. There will be none of this cup-of-tea nonsense. If anything, you should be bringing refreshments. You have less than half an hour to prove to this woman that letting people visit her and her newborn is a good thing.
Here are some tips to make the visit run smoothly:
1. How long should I wait?
Ideally, you need to wait at least a week, if you are not a close family member. You might be dying to see your friend and their new baby, but giving them a chance to settle is best. Depending on how the delivery went, you might even want to wait longer, especially if mum had a c-section or a difficult delivery.
2. How long should I stay?
For your visit, an hour is too much. Goo and gush at baby, give the gift and say your good-byes. Maybe add a compliment about how good mum looks. She will see right through it, but at least she knows that you care enough to lie.
Also, never ever visit a baby if you have or are recovering/anticipating any form of illness. A newborn baby picks up anything going, so even if you are not sure whether it's just your hay-fever, stay at home.
3. Can I hold the baby?
Eh. That depends.
Is she a new mum? In this case, you need to ask yourself: Who am I? If you are a relative or a best mate, maybe. If not, probably not. Don’t push it. This person is full of hormones. She will cry and plan your murder if you even politely argue.
Is she an experienced mum? Probably. Hold the head, don’t venture from the couch or bed and maybe change a nappy or two (yes, there will be more than one in the half an hour you’re there)
If the new mum offers and you’re not comfortable, say it. She would rather you let her know.
4. Control the urge to comment negatively about ANYTHING. This includes:
“You look wrecked!”
“Have you showered?”
“She’s the image of his mother!”
“When will you be up and about?”
NB: No one-upmanship. If your labour was worse/better or your child slept, leave it out.
5. The Baby
Even if you’ve seen prettier babies, this baby, in this moment, is the most beautiful thing to ever grace the earth. Compliments are the only thing you can't over-do on this less-is-more visit.
Be specific. He has her nose and chin and looks like her dad when he yawns. She is sooo good (even if she’s bawled non-stop since you arrived). The name is so beautiful you want to cry (even if it isn't).
Here’s a good one: Look into baby’s eyes and tell them that they are so lucky to have the best mummy in the whole wide world. That should do the trick. These post-partum days can feel like the twilight zone. Mums can do with encouragement.
Which brings us to the next point.
I still cannot believe that this has to be said, but dear God, do not judge a mother on ANYTHING unless it’s a matter of life and death.
She has been with experts for days at the maternity hospital. She has been told that breast is best. She knows that feeding cover-ups exist. She has heard that the cry-out system can work. Believe it or not, this woman has had 9 months to make parenting decisions. She is a mother now and is entitled to her own choices.
She will only learn from her experiences, and especially if you have none of your own, judging her will do more damage than good.
This is a tough one because advice can come across as judgemental.
Again ask, who am I? Personally, I only accepted advice from my mother and other close mothers. If you are suitably qualified, advice can be welcomed.
However, it can also be dangerous. Things change, and if you give the wrong advice, it could come back and haunt you later on. Things like sleeping positions (It’s baby on her back at the moment), change as new research develops. Your advice could be out-dated.
Things like; “this worked for me” or “my sister tried this” are fine as long as you aren't insinuating that your way is better than hers. Mums are individuals and so are their babies. Something that seems like a no-brainer to you, might not work for your friend.
You could make it easy for yourself by asking her what she is finding tough, and seeing if you have any tips (preferably from experience).
It's amazing how many people have never seen a mother breastfeeding her baby.
We live in a society that has a weird thing about baby-feeding organs. If you have this disturbing, socially-conditioned phobia, you need to deal. That means no weird facial expressions, and try not to go red. You don’t want to make mum feel like she needs to change her behaviour for you.
On the other hand, she may want privacy while she feeds. It can be hard to get a newborn to latch and it takes a while to gain confidence. You could be a dear and ask if this is the case. If so, wait outside, maybe get her a cuppa.
9. Be prepared
There might be tears.
If you’re not comfortable seeing someone you love cry, postpone the visit. There will be sudden efforts to contain nappy-explosions. There will be moments where mum might stop, mid-sentence and gaze distractedly into the distance. Baby brain can come in all shapes and sizes so try not to expect her attention to be on you.
Also, don't be disappointed if the new bundle is snoozing soundly. Do not expect or even suggest that the bundle should be disturbed. You can still smell the baby's head while they sleep!
10. Offer to help
Even if she refuses; look around for a mess and get moving. Most mothers try to be super-mom and attempt to do it all. That’s all well and good, but she has had less than two hours of sleep every night since baby was born (or even since the end of pregnancy). This, though she might try to convince you otherwise, is NOT enough to function.
You could even go all out a make a dinner for her to stick on later. Don’t stay to consume it though, because fed guests always leave their mark, even if they do their best not to. Even a loaf of bread or fresh milk can help. Remember if she's feeding, she will be thirsty, so making sure the tea-bags are stocked and her water bottle is filled could be a god-send.
This seems like a lot, but the mum will be grateful that you made a proper effort to consider her and her baby’s needs. You will also get a better experience out of the visit if you feel like you weren't in the way. The baby might be more calm ad give you a chance to fawn over them properly!
Also: consider the karma- there might come a time in your life where you will need the same support and patience from someone else!