Who else has ever found it a little bit awkward or “worrisome” visiting a newborn baby? There’s always the question of “what exactly am I supposed to do?” “Should I ask to hold the baby or wait for the parent to ask if I want to?” “Should I buy some diapers on my way?” “How long should I stay?”

Of course, it’s easier to visit a newborn baby if the parent is a super close friend of yours. But it can still get tricky regardless of your relationship with the parents, especially if you want your presence to be truly appreciated.

So, what are the rules, the dos, and don’ts of visiting a newborn baby?

1. Ask them when will be a good and convenient time to visit

Ditch the surprise visit idea. There should be no such thing as a surprise visit when you’re visiting a new baby’s fam!

Besides, you never know, you might be disrupting the long-needed nap that mum/baby have been craving for all day, so ditch the surprise. Call and ask when will be a good time to have you over.

If the birth was via CS, then be considerate towards the new mum and don’t stress her. Give her time to heal and help out as much as you can.

Lest I forget, never overwhelm a new mum with phone calls. A new mum needs all the rest she can get, especially right after the delivery. And that’s why calling the day or a few days right delivery (because you’re too excited and can’t wait to say “congratulations”) isn’t always a good idea. Remember, there are tons of other persons calling as well.

Instead of a call, send a text. Or you can leave an audio message for them on social media.

Visiting a newborn - no unannounced visits

2. Keep it short – don’t overstay your welcome

It’s a new baby and the new family is swarmed with a lot of visitors. Hence, why you should keep your visits short and valuable. Moreover, a better time to visit again will be a few weeks later – she’ll barely have any visitors then.

Another reason to keep it short is that the new family is tired and needs all the free time they can get to rest.

3. Do not visit if you’re sick (or have a cold)

This should be common sense but it’s something a lot of persons do – don’t visit a baby if you’re sick. A baby’s immune system isn’t fully developed yet, and this makes them more susceptible to germs. Always wait till you get better.

Visitors suffering from a viral infection and experiencing symptoms like cough, fever, or a runny nose should stay miles away from the baby. It might not seem like a big deal to you but to a baby, it is.

While a cold is a minor ailment for you that will go away soon, it’s not the case for babies. The parents already have a lot to worry about and their baby getting germs from you should not be added to the list. Sometimes, you don’t even have to be sick. If you have lice, stay home.

How about if you have malaria?

Let’s hear what Dr. Ogaga-Oghene Akpughe (Medical officer, General Practice Clinic, UBTH):

Malaria is one of the common causes of febrile illness, especially in the Tropics. While it is not contagious but spread by the female anopheles mosquito, the general advice holds true here – If you are ill, please defer visiting a newborn till you become well, and here is why:

If you are sick of malaria, the anopheles mosquito may feed on you and acquire the parasite and then bite baby causing them to have malaria and unlike adults, Malaria can be a serious illness for newborns as their immunity isn’t quite developed.

4. Ask if you can hold the baby

Don’t walk in and head straight to carry the child. Ask for permission first. And if you get a “no”, don’t hold a grudge. Understand and respect that the mum has genuine reasons why she said no. On the other hand, if you do get a “yes”, then follow the rules.

When not sure how to properly hold the child, ask for help. Don’t try to figure it out all on your own.

PS: Don’t you dare ask if the baby is asleep. Also, you’ll most likely not get a no if you stick to rule number 5.

Visiting a newborn - don't carry baby without permission

5. Keep a hand sanitizer in handy or wash your hands

You’re not sick? That’s great but you still do have germs. Before carrying a new baby, please wash your hands. If you find it “uncomfortable” asking for a place to wash your hands, then go along with a hand sanitizer.

Use the hand sanitizer in the presence of the mum or caregiver. Why? Simple, no mum wants her baby to fall ill and you using a hand sanitizer reassures them that their baby is in germ-free safe hands. That’s a relief.

6. Seriously, don’t kiss the baby

Some parents won’t mind you kissing their little one. Others (like me) will mind as hell. So, stay off the kissing zone. Instead, play with the baby, talk, sing, or read the baby a story.

Whether the parents mind or not, do stay away from kissing the baby – it’s one sure way of transmitting germs to the child.

Visiting a newborn - don't kiss the baby

7. What should you do when it’s breastfeeding time?

Not every new mum will find it super comfy to breastfeed their child while you’re around. Just in case you forgot, this involves the mum “showing off” her breasts and the last thing they want is you staring at them while their baby is trying to fill up their teeny-weeny stomach.

Look away – let your phone or something else distract you. If you’ve been there for a while and you sense that the mum isn’t comfortable, take that as your cue to leave.

8. Don’t go about spreading the good news or pictures of the little one without permission

It might seem over the top to you but it’s not. One time, I visited a friend who was babysitting her nephew and towards the end of the day, we took a couple of selfies with the baby. The baby was crying and putting him down wasn’t an option, moreover, as at that time, it didn’t even occur to me if the parent would have been okay with it.

Fast forward to when I got home and wanted to upload the selfies on WhatsApp, I just couldn’t because I wasn’t sure if it was something the mother will be comfortable with – her child on “display”. I had been eager to share my co-babysitting experience that day and how my friend (in my opinion) flopped big time!

Baby pictures are adorable but before you share with the world or a bunch of people the mum doesn’t know, ask for permission.

9. Volunteer to help out with the chores

Baby plus chores equal “I’m tired and I need to rest”. Even if the mum doesn’t look tired, she is. Ask if there’s anything she needs help with and willingly help out. If you’re going to grudgingly help out, don’t ask. Volunteering means you should be enthusiastic about it.

Daniella, a mum of 2, says:

Ask the new mum how you can help out and relieve her for the short while you’re around.

10. No unsolicited advice to the new parents

Trust me, before you came along, chances are they’ve heard tons of other people’s advice. It’s overwhelming and they don’t need more stressors on their plate.

However, this shouldn’t stop you from sharing an informed/educated opinion that will help protect the new family.

Encourage and support mum

11. Follow rules

One time, I went along with a group of friends to visit a new baby and the parents requested that those who wanted to hold the baby should wash up first. I expected this and I had already done the needful before the official announcement was made. However, some persons felt the request was an insult.

How to avoid this? Ask for a place to wash your hands the moment you walk in!

If you’re helping to make the baby’s food, follow her instructions to the letter.

12. If you’re not sure about something, then ask

For example, before bringing hand-me-downs like a book, ask the new parents if they want whatsoever you’re bringing. They might already have it or just don’t want to use it for their baby.

Diaper brand? Some parents are very specific about the brand of diapers they use. If you’re not sure of which brand to get, then pick your phone and dial their number.

Not sure how to hold the baby or how to make the baby’s food? Please ask. Not sure if to burp or how to burp the baby? Please ask.

13. Offer to babysit

Do not offer to babysit if you can’t effectively care for your baby and if you aren’t into babysitting. Don’t make an offer because it’s a good thing to do. Offer to help because you genuinely want to babysit.

Hence, if you know your schedule is too crazy, don’t make the offer! It’s better to not make the offer than to disappoint the new parent.

14. What can you bring? Try bringing food

When bringing food, focus on bringing something that won’t go bad if mum isn’t able to have it anytime soon.

Soups and stews are very thoughtful ideas if you’re up for it. You could bring beverages as well and if the baby is on formula, then bring some more of those awesome formulas!

Also, don’t expect to be fed.

Visiting a newborn - bring food

15. Don’t comment on the baby’s size/weight and her postpartum body

You’ve already heard that not commenting on the new mum’s body is a good idea. Well, it is. Don’t make any comment.

What about the baby’s size/weight? Steer off as well. A comment as basic as “he looks so tiny” with a smiling blushing face can make the new mum feel like she isn’t giving her baby enough food. Make no comment, okay?

Another thing you shouldn’t comment about is the state of the house. If the home is messy, volunteer to help clean up.

Dear mums, these things shouldn’t make you feel like a bad mum.

Please don’t tell me how fat I got. I already know. Pregnancy does that to you!

Daniella, mum of two!

16. Text much, call less

Did I mention that the new parents are tired? Sometimes, instead of calling, send a text especially if the call is meant to congratulate the new parents – they’ll be grateful.

If you’re really into calls and sending a text feels too odd for you, remember that it’s about the new family (not you, lol) and send them a VN on social media instead. Another good reason not to call is that your call might wake up mum or baby.

17. Don’t smoke anywhere around the baby

There’s such a thing as a second-hand smoker and that’s one thing babies and young children shouldn’t be.

If you can’t resist the urge to smoke around a baby, then you should leave and visit some other time.

18. Bring gifts (if you can) – cash gifts are appreciated too

You can never go wrong with bringing gifts to a baby. It’s a good way to show how supportive and friendly you are. It doesn’t matter how little the gift seems, just take something along when you visit a newborn.

Daniella, mum of two!

The bottom line…

When it comes to visiting a newborn, always remember that the baby, mum, and dad are exhausted and need to rest. Don’t stress the new family out, let them rest. Don’t visit if you’re sick or have lice. Respect the new parents parenting choices.

Oh, one last thing, don’t compare and contrast their baby with yours or the baby next door. I’m pretty sure the new parents know how your baby and the next-door baby look like.

Naga Odigie

When I'm not obsessing about the wonders and dynamics of the human brain, I'm a secondary caregiver and a biomedical scientist roaming the city of Benin.