How to Support Your Friend Who Had a Baby

After I got home from the hospital with a brand new baby boy, my phone dinged with an email. A coworker I had literally just met the month prior set up a meal train for my husband and me, so we were all set for dinner two nights a week for three months. “Don’t worry about anything!” She said. “We’re here to support you!

I remember feeling shocked and full of gratitude. I considered myself a pretty good friend, but with new parents, I never really reached out — mostly because I didn’t know how to help. Now, I can confidently say visiting a friend who just had a baby is one of the kindest, most thoughtful things a person can do. Here’s a quick guide to doing it right.

 

1. Don’t invite yourself over.

You might be stoked to see your friend and meet their little one, but it’s common to give new parents space the first 4-6 weeks after they get home from the hospital. Assume a visit won’t happen for a little while, and under no circumstances should you “stop by” unexpectedly or invite yourself over—even if you mean well, even if you are only going to stay for five minutes, even if you’re bringing a gift.

New parents are typically trying to re-calibrate physically, mentally and emotionally—and, um, running on very little sleep—so visiting and socializing can be exhausting. They also may want exclusive time with their baby before rolling out the welcome wagon. (Of course, if you’re a very close friend or family member, this rule may not apply. Still, you’ll want to ask before visiting.)

 

WHAT TO DO

 

Wait a couple weeks, then reach out. In the meantime, send flowers or a supportive card or text.

 

WHAT TO SAY

 

“Hey, I’d love to see you and meet Baby when you’re ready for visitors! Are you cool with us tentatively planning for a visit the week of ____? If yes, I’ll bring dinner.” If they say no, or not right now, don’t take it personally, and offer again later.

 

2. Bring something.

Any etiquette expert would cringe at the idea of showing up empty-handed to a visit, and the same applies to seeing friends with new babies. You’re not obligated to bring a gift, but it’s probably going to be appreciated if you do. I remember as a new parent someone bringing me a little goody bag of lotion, body wash and chapstick, and I felt so grateful for the tiny acknowledgement that my body had just been through the wringer and could use some TLC.

Other friends brought outfits for the baby, or a cute blanket, or diapers and wipes (really can’t go wrong with that last one!)—and most people brought food, which is always a good idea, no matter what. It doesn’t matter if your friends are millionaires or the baby is five months old; bringing food is a neighborly, helpful gesture. When you’re thrust into caring for a child, whether it is your first or fifth time, literally the last thing you want to do as a new parent is think about cooking or planning meals. If you choose this route, know it is helpful to offer to bring food in the first 1-3 months, when life is the most chaotic with an infant. If you’re coordinating with a larger group (like coworkers), you can utilize a meal train app or website to make planning easier so the new parents know what to expect.

 

WHAT TO DO

 

Check on any allergies or meal preferences, then drop off their favorite takeout, make a homemade dish with plenty of leftovers, or provide a couple gift cards to local restaurants. Put it in containers that you don’t need back, or use disposable ones. Add paper plates, utensils, and napkins so your friend doesn’t have to worry about clean-up either. Or, like I said, if the whole food thing seems like a lot of work, simply bring over a bottle of wine, a bag of coffee or a small gift of your choice.

 

WHAT TO SAY

 

“I know you’re perfectly capable of making or buying dinner, but I’d love to take one thing off your to-do list. I’ll drop off a rotisserie chicken and salad tomorrow night around 6 p.m., no visit needed!”

 

3. Give parents a break.

My mother-in-law once came over at eight in the morning to literally hold my son so I could sleep for an hour. At first, I puttered around making small talk, and then she finally was like, “I’m not here to see you, I’m here to help you, please go sleep and trust that I’ll take care of the baby.” She didn’t have to tell me twice.

When you’re visiting a friend who just had a baby, offer to hold the baby so they can do anything. A shower, a quick run to Target, a catnap — all of it will be helpful and work wonders for helping your friend feel like a regular person again and give him or her a much needed break without stressing about if the baby is okay. Some of this depends on your relationship with the person as well; know your friend might be sensitive about ANYONE holding his or her baby. 

 

WHAT TO DO

 

Make a point to wash your hands, then offer to hold the baby. If you’re not comfortable doing so (and a LOT of people aren’t, which is normal!), just say so. You can help with rocking the baby in an automated swing, keeping baby safe on the ground on a blanket, shushing the baby in a bassinet, whatever. And if you offer to hold the baby, and your friend declines, don’t take it personally.

 

WHAT TO SAY

 

“May I hold the baby, if you’re comfortable with that?” Or, “Can I give you a break to ____? I’m happy to watch Baby for a little bit so you can shower/check email/nap.” Or, “I’m pretty nervous to touch or hold newborns, but please know I’m admiring him/her from afar! So cute.”

 

Source: @gparrish

 

4. Remember siblings.

In some families, it’s not just the parents feeling the aftereffects of bringing a baby home. Siblings, particularly younger ones, may also get overwhelmed. This is definitely not mandatory, but if your friend has other children, it might be nice to bring a little gift to help big brothers or sisters feel included. You can also skip the gift but make a point to chat with siblings and give them your full attention in addition to gushing over tiny toes.

 

WHAT TO DO

 

Acknowledge the sibling with eye contact, a little hug or pat on the shoulder or a smile. Depending on age, read a book or play with the older kiddo—whatever would make them feel like you’re interested and they are as important as the baby.

 

WHAT TO SAY

 

“Wow, you’re a big sister/brother? I bet you’re being so helpful.”

 

5. Be a good listener.

Some new parents want to share every last detail and obsess over how adorable their kid is. Others desperately crave adult conversations. Take the lead from your friend, and let the conversation go wherever they want. Give the gift of friendship by being a good listener, or telling some funny stories about a recent date or work situation.

 

WHAT TO DO

 

Put your phone down and be fully present with your friend.

 

WHAT TO SAY

 

“How are you feeling lately? What’s the best or hardest thing about parenting so far?”

 

6. Offer specific, practical help.

One of my BFFs visited us during my maternity leave, and she cleaned our entire apartment top to bottom. Did I ask her to do this? No. Did she do it anyway? Yes. For most people, it is easier to accept help than ask someone for it, so do your best to either take initiative during a visit (“While you’re nursing, I’m happy to finish those dishes off before heading out the door!”) or ask for specific direction (“What’s one thing I can do to help you today, no matter how small?”).

You can also gently give permission to the new parents in your life to ask you for help. A friend of mine said after she had twins, someone mowed her lawn. She felt relieved at that chore being checked off the list, and the person who did it enjoyed being clearly useful. Seriously, any help you offer is useful right after a baby enters your friend’s world.

 

WHAT TO DO

 

Something specific that helps your friend. Take their dog for a walk, run to the grocery store for milk, drop off packages at the post office, return that random sweater from Target, go put gas in their car, make a batch of granola, wipe down their kitchen counters.

 

WHAT TO SAY

 

“I’m going to _____, if you don’t mind. Really, I want to help you however possible, and it’ll make me happy to do this for you.” Trust me, new parents will often insist against receiving help because it feels hard and awkward to be “needy.” I once told my cousin to stop saying “Sorry, could you . . . ?” during a visit with her 7-week-old baby because I could tell she felt so put-out about asking for help, and I was there to help her!

 

 

7. Keep visits short and sweet.

For a while, one of the hardest battles of being a new parent involved figuring out a nursing and sleeping schedule. Babies are not the most reliable creatures, so this often leads to stress — which means if you’re planning on visiting, show up on time and only plan to stay for 30 minutes or so. If you arrive early, you’ve likely thrown your friend completely off track, and if you overstay your welcome, know your friend is probably dying to get some rest.

 

WHAT TO DO

 

Keep a visit short and sweet, around 15-45 minutes max. Show up on time; if you’re going to be early or late, text your friend to make sure that’s okay.

 

WHAT TO SAY

 

“I’m running ten minutes early! I can circle the block if you need more time before our visit, so let me know.” Or, at the beginning of a visit, “I’m going to stay for a half hour and then let you get back to family time.”

 

8. Send well wishes.

Depending on your relationship with a friend, the entire concept of a visit may feel like too much. That’s fine. But I can still recall the names of acquaintances who sent flowers at the hospital, a note in the mail, or a little text of congratulations — because those small kindnesses meant the world to me. Every bit of support counts, so if you’re not sure what to do, just send a quick message to your friend and their family. It doesn’t have to be detailed, just something short to make them smile and feel good.

 

WHAT TO DO

 

Send congrats in any form; this doesn’t require your physical presence.

 

WHAT TO SAY

 

“I’ve been thinking of you! Wishing you all the best with the new baby.”

 

If you’re a parent, what did you love about visitors after your baby arrived? And in general, what would you add to this list of best tips for visiting friends with new babies?

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