The Etiquette Of Visiting Parents With Newborns

There are few things in life more heartwarming than meeting a newborn baby for the first time, especially if that baby is the son or daughter of a dear friend.  But for the parents who have just had a baby, there are also few things that are more stressful and exhausting.      The new mom or dad have probably not had more than three consecutive hours of  sleep.  The mom’s nipples are probably sore and bleeding.  And neither have had time to eat a real meal.  This post is dedicated to the etiquette of visiting new parents.  I hope it doesn’t offend anyone.  It shouldn’t.  I definitely violated these rules before I had a baby.  This is meant to simply help friends understand the needs of a new parent.

1) CLEAN YOUR HANDS: When you arrive for your visit, the first thing you should do is wash your hands and let your friend know that you are washing your hands.  You want to give your friend the peace of mind that when you touch his/her new baby, you are doing it with the cleanest possible hands.  And ask if there’s any hand sanitizer for you to use.   I guarantee there’s probably a couple gallons of it around the house.  Newborns have fragile immune systems and you don’t want to be the reason the baby gets sick at such a young age.  Believe me, parents keep tabs on who may have made their baby sick— they may resent you forever.  This brings me to rule number two:

2) IF YOU’RE SICK DON’T VISIT:  This may seem like common sense, but you’d be surprised how many people seem to think it’s ok to visit a newborn when they have a cold.  Even a minor cold could make the baby sick.  So just wait till you are back to full health before you visit.

3) COME EARLY, DON’T STAY TOO LONG:  This is probably the most important piece of advice.  You probably think your friend wants to have some adult company after spending days alone doing nothing but changing diapers and burping a baby.  That’s true.  But unless you’re the kind of person that knows how to handle babies and can give mom or dad a break to go shower or sleep, don’t stay for more than an hour.  Moms need to do things like breastfeed, or pump milk, or put the baby to sleep in a quiet environment.  It’s not easy to do any of these things with friends around.  Try not to stay past 6 PM.   New moms and dads will be trying to go to sleep as early as possible and they need a little while to get things in order before they can take a snooze ahead of a long night of interrupted sleep.

4) INSIST ON HELPING:  If you know how to handle a baby well, offer to hold the baby and give the mom or dad a chance to do something for themselves, like go to the bathroom and maybe even brush their teeth.  If you’re not good with babies, bring lunch or dinner over.  The new mom or dad have probably not had a proper meal all day.

5) GIVE USEFUL BABY GIFTS:  Your visit is sweet enough and you should never feel obligated to buy a gift.  Bringing a meal or a snack over is more than enough.  But if you insist on giving something, make sure it’s useful.  Far too often people buy very cute outfits but they are likely the wrong size and for the wrong season.  Sure, you may have included a gift receipt, but believe me, the new mom or dad will not have a chance to do any exchanges or shopping for a very long time.  Books for the baby are always a good idea and they don’t take up too much space.  One of my favorite gifts was a book called “Love You Forever,” by Robert Munsch.   I will read it to my son for many years to come and think for the sweet friend who gave it to us every time.   Gift certificates are another good option.  Babies need many different things as they grow and a gift certificate gives your friends some extra cash to buy what he/she may need.

5) DON’T JUDGE: Remember the new mom and dad are functioning on very few hours of sleep and they may not make much sense at times.  They are also probably hyper-sensitive and they may still be wearing the same outfit they put on the day before.  Forgive them their faux pas, and they’ll forgive yours!

I believe if you follow these five simple rules, your friends will really appreciate your visit and ask you to come back again and again.  But after hearing all the crying and fussiness that comes with a newborn baby (from both the parents and the baby), you may  decide to wait a few months before going back again.

The Etiquette Of Visiting Parents With Newborns

All I Want For Christmas (and my birthday)…

… is a few hours of uninterrupted sleep. For three months I have gladly woken up several times throughout the night to feed my baby and pump. There was one night when I was so tired, I actually slept for six straight hours. It was so beautiful. But it only happened once. I desperately want it to happen again.

We just came back from a trip visiting family in California and I have a very fussy jet lagged baby who refuses to sleep before 1 AM. Last night, for the first time, I actually got annoyed with my three-month old! I put him to bed at 10 PM. He woke up at 10:15. I tried again at 11. He woke up at 11:30. And I actually found myself frustrated with him. That feeling was immediately followed by enormous gilt. How could I get mad at my baby, especially when the reason for his fussiness has nothing to do with him, and everything to do with our decision to travel? I felt like a terrible mother. But I’m really tired and I really miss sleeping.

Tonight I may get my wish. It’s my birthday and my husband has offered to take the entire night shift and let me sleep. Honestly, I cannot think of a better gift. Now, the question is if I can actually let myself sleep. In my mind waking up throughout the night is synonymous with being a good mom. Plus, I’ll feel so guilty seeing my tired husband tomorrow. I wish we could both get a good night’s sleep. I wish all three of us could sleep for eight hours straight. Do you think Santa grants wishes like these?

I wish you all a happy holiday season and a very good night’s rest. As for me, I think it’s time for a nap since my little one is with daddy right now and seems to be dozing off.

Moms, will I ever get to really sleep again?


All I Want For Christmas (and my birthday)…

Maternity Leave Madness

I finally did it. This week I finally opened up my work email. I had about 30 messages with the subject “your mailbox is full.” And more than 2500 other unread emails. I was perfectly happy letting it stay full. But I’m now just a few weeks away from returning to work and it is time for me to send the email I had been dreading since the day my baby was born. It’s time to find out when my official start date will be.

I won’t lie. A part of me is really looking forward to going back to work. I love what I do and I’m excited to jump back into the world of international news. But another part of me is having a major panic attack. How am I going to leave my three and a half month old for 10 hours a day? I tend to get anxious when I’m having dinner with friends and I’m a way from him for only two hours. I’m really lucky because I will be leaving him with an amazing nanny who he already loves. . But I will have to let go and get myself used to the fact that my son will not be spending the day the way I want him to spend it. I will be sharing his most precious moments and milestones with someone else. I will cry my eyes out every morning when I leave him.

It just feels too soon to go. Why is it that the great United States has the worst maternity leave policies of the developed world. In Canada, moms get 52 weeks off work during this life changing experience. The same is true for the U.K and other parts of Europe. In France, both moms and dads get to take a combined 104 weeks off work. Even Afghanistan has better laws concerning maternity leave. The law there requires women to take 12 weeks off work with 100% of their pay. In fact, the law in the U.S. does not require a company to pay moms anything, though most get some of their salary through short-term disability. We are forced to choose between having the opportunity to be good moms or to be successful career women. And most of us don’t even really have that choice. We have to work in order to help provide for our families.

I think it’s time for another wave of feminism in the U.S., one that celebrates the idea of being both a mother and a career women. We can do it all, if our country will give us the chance. It’s too late for me. Come mid-January, I’ll have to leave my baby for work before he even recognizes that I am his mom.

Moms, what are your experiences with going back to work?

Maternity Leave Madness