You Asked: What should I do when meeting someone’s newborn?
Exhilarating. Beautiful. Joyous. Emotional. Stressful. These are only a few descriptions of what parenthood feels like for new (and seasoned) parents, alike. Everyone wants to know how you’re feeling and when they can eventually meet the recent addition to your family. So, what should friends and family specifically do before introductions to someone’s latest ‘little?’
Be respectful of baby’s health
“The number one health measure you can take before meeting a new baby is to wash your hands,” said Alison Pittman, clinical assistant professor and pediatric nurse with the Texas A&M Health Science Center College of Nursing. “You should also let the parents know you’re washing your hands before you hold or handle their newborn. This is the best way to prevent the spread of germs.”
Friends and family should remember that newborns do not receive all their immunizations until around six months of age. Because of this, they’re extremely susceptible to common infections rampant today. If you or a family member has been potentially exposed to any infectious diseases (such as chicken pox, the flu, or whooping cough), recently it’s best to postpone your visit until a health care provider has determined you’re no longer contagious.
“Ensure everyone’s shots are up to date—for both you and your children—before visiting,” Pittman continued. “Definitely do not visit if anyone in your party is sick. If experiencing symptoms like fever, cough, runny nose or any sort of cold symptoms, wait to visit. Stomach problems like diarrhea or vomiting are worrisome, too.” New parents will appreciate you staying away until you’re well—especially if their child is less than one month old. This is the most vulnerable time period for new babies.
Babies are also notorious for putting any object in sight into their mouths—an easy way to transfer germs. A newborn may grab your hand or your fingers and attempt to suck on them. Although it’s endearing, Pittman said this should be avoided, even if you’ve washed your hands. “This can expose the baby to bacteria,” she said. “Saliva is a germ-carrier, too, which is why you shouldn’t kiss all over a new baby’s face. New parents are extra-scared of germs and will appreciate you withholding these types of affection.”
Love on the little but don’t forget about mom and dad
Everyone is eager to greet the new baby, and mom and dad can often be forgotten in the midst of all the celebration and excitement. Pittman said just like baby, new parents need a little TLC during this stage of life.
When considering gifts, it may be better to bring items a new family needs (diapers, baby wipes, formula, etc.,) instead of the usual clothing and toys. Coffee and toilet paper shouldn’t be overlooked, either. Small gestures like bringing food or a gift card to a restaurant can further alleviate the burden on new parents, who generally are trying to cope with the newness around them instead of cooking meals.
“If you visit, act like a host. Don’t expect to be waited on,” Pittman said. “Do the dishes or put in a load of laundry. You can even offer to hold the baby so mom and dad can hop in the shower or take a moment to eat. The moments when they’re able to relax, if only for a short time, are precious to a new parent.”
When in doubt, ask first
Pittman stressed it is imperative friends and family ask first before paying a house call to a family immediately after baby’s birth. She said many new families say no to visitors the first few days after leaving the hospital—this allows more bonding time with their newborn.
“Coming by unannounced and staying for an hour or more when the parents are stressed and sleep deprived is not a good idea,” she said. “When you extend courtesy and ask if they’re okay with visitors, this will relieve future tension and stress. Staying too long is also something to refrain from. Be mindful of a family’s time with their newest family member.”