Before I became a mom in September, I didn’t know much about the world of motherhood or babies.
I imagined it as a place where you didn’t sleep for a few weeks (and then everything buffed out and the sleepless nights were over), you would easily breastfeed your baby a few times throughout the day (not the case for everyone), and you spent a lot of time just reveling in how much you love your baby. (I do this at 2:00 PM, but I can’t say that I’m reveling at 2:00 AM.)
Since I’d never known a new mom (half of my friends already had kids when I met them, the other half aren’t moms yet), I didn’t know anything about the etiquette for visiting a new mom, when you should and shouldn’t touch a baby, and so on.
I realize now that – on the rare instances where I did see a baby before becoming a mom myself – I made some faux pas. They were completely innocent and unintentional, I simply didn’t know how to treat a new human being, but they were made all the same.
So, for the other women out there (or men) who don’t know how to handle their friend’s new title of “Mom”, I’ve put together a short list of some things that I’ve learned along the way.
I’m only five months into things, and every mom has her own perspective, so I’d love to hear from other moms in the comments below! What have you found helpful (or not) from friends? What’s something that you wish you’d known before becoming a mom, that your other friends might not realize?
A New Mom Can’t Always Commit to Plans at a Certain Time Anymore
Even though Killian naps fairly routinely, there’s still about a 30 minute window of error on either side of each nap. His goal nap is from 9:00 AM – 10:30 AM, but Killian might nap until 10:30 AM today, until 10:00 AM tomorrow, and then until 9:45 AM the next day (say, my dog barking wakes him up).
I can sometimes plan to meet someone at a safe time like 11:00 AM, but when Killian only naps until 9:45 AM, he’ll already have been awake for over an hour by the time that I see someone at 11:00 AM. Killian can typically only last 1.5 – 2 hours awake before he starts falling apart and needs a nap, and that window used to be only 60 minutes when he was younger and couldn’t stay awake for very long.
A new mom might be better than I was at managing this time puzzle (and it becomes easier as the baby gets older), but a mom might prefer to avoid any hard planning until a routine with her baby is established. It’s not you – it’s that a baby who strays from his nap schedule will turn around and only give your friend 2 hours of sleep that following night.
…And a New Mom Might Be Late (to Everything)
When Killian was still a newborn, I had to get ready to leave the house an hour before I ever planned on leaving. I would get myself dressed, check that the diaper bag was packed, pump my breasts, feed the baby, change his diaper, clean up whatever spittle covered us both, change my shirt, lock the front door, put the baby in his car seat, hop into the car myself, and roll out.
But no matter how many times I left early, something would go wrong.
One time, I left early, only to have Killian violently poop out the sides of his diaper as I put him into his car seat. It got on my arms, it got on him, it got on his outfit, etc. I was 30 minutes late because I had to bring Killian back inside, take him (carefully) out of his pants and onesie without spreading the poop, wipe him down, give up on wiping and run him a bath instead, give him a bath, dry him off and put him in a new diaper and outfit, and then get him back into the car.
Your mom friend can plan as much as she wants, but when a baby craps all over himself and your friend, she’s going to be late.
After Your Friend FINALLY Gets Out, She Still Might Need to Leave Early
Every baby is different and some handle being out in public better than others. I kid you not, the simple act of maintaining eye contact is stimulating for a newborn, so you can imagine how easy it is to overwhelm them. An overwhelmed baby won’t fall asleep later, an overly-tired baby won’t stay asleep at night, and things can spiral before you know it.
When I’m finally out with my friends and enjoying some time in public, I’m still on alert for the first signs of Killian getting fussy. I know from my pre-baby days how everyone can judge a parent with a crying baby (“We didn’t come out to lunch to listen to some baby crying,”) so if things start going south with Killian and he’s showing signs of impending trouble, I’ll probably bail early and avoid a scene.
And yes, I know that I could stay, calm my crying baby, and stand my ground for myself and moms everywhere…but when the entire point of me getting out was to relax and enjoy myself, I’m not achieving that goal when I’m stressed out and trying to calm down Killian. I would rather take him home and get him relaxed, and then try again another time to enjoy bottomless mimosas and brunch.
Offer to Come Over to Help Once or Twice, But Then Let Your Friend Come to You
Some moms feel isolated in the weeks and months immediately after giving birth, and want company. Others might appreciate offers for someone to drop off food, help with dishes or housekeeping, or babysitting for a couple of hours so that she can sleep.
But other moms (I fell into this camp) might need time to themselves and their respective babies as they process this new life. And as well-intended as your offer might be, having anyone over at all could still be more than your friend can handle at the moment.
So, don’t be afraid to offer whatever help you can give to a new mom – your friend might be too shy to ask for it herself. But once you’ve made the offer, leave it up to your friend to take you up on it when (and if) she needs it.
You Can’t Wait to See the New Baby, But Don’t Invite Yourself Over
Babies are hugely exciting for everyone involved, and your friend is lucky to have ladies like you in her life who are ready to shower her new baby with love.
But the same excitement you feel is also coming at your friend from everyone else in her life: spouse, parents, siblings, in-laws and siblings-in-law, nieces and nephews, neighbors, other friends, friends of her parents, and anyone else you could imagine.
So, while your friend tries to adjust to life as a new mom while recovering from a major medical procedure, wait for her to extend an invitation to you to visit the new bundle of joy. Trust me, she’s excited to show you her baby, and she’ll ask you to come over and meet him/her as soon as is best for her and baby.
First Visits After Birth Should Be Short
This one I definitely messed up as a non-mom because I had absolutely no idea how exhausting the time after birth could be for a mom, or how easily overstimulated a baby could be.
But, as I mentioned a couple of points earlier: babies are super easy to over-stimulate. Noise, talking, eye contact, holding them and cooing at them, lights, literally anything can overstimulate a baby, and having new people over (and getting passed from one set of hands to the other) is hugely exhausting for him or her.
And for the mom: she probably appreciates the company, but she might also be desperate for just 30 minutes of sleep before she’s due to feed the baby and change his diaper for the umpteenth time that day. (Fun fact: newborns have to be fed every 2-3 hours during the day and usually every 3-4 hours throughout the night for the first two weeks of life. That’s every day, every night, including weekends, with no days off. Your friend is tired in ways you can’t even imagine, even if she doesn’t look it.)
So, do your friend a favor in case she’s too polite to kick you out, and keep your visits short. Probably don’t stay any longer than an hour, but I even preferred something in the 30-minute window so that I could take some time before that next feeding to eat, nap, pee, or just vegetate.
Even If You Only Have A Runny Nose….Don’t Come Over
Germs and babies is a huge issue for a lot of parents, and not much of an issue at all for others. Your friend might not want any visitors and might keep the baby quarantined in the house until her newborn’s first round of vaccines at two months old, or she might be toting him/her around Wal-Mart after one week.
You never know, but it is so important to check with your friend about what safety measures she is taking for her baby. If a newborn gets sick, almost any illness will land them in the ER, so this isn’t just your friend’s “first-time mom paranoia,” this is a legitimate medical concern.
And it should go without saying, no matter if your friend’s baby is quarantined or not: don’t visit your friend or touch the baby if you have any sign of illness, even a runny nose or a cough. It’s not worth the risk to the newborn.
Wash Your Hands (And Take Other Precautions) Before Holding a Newborn
Again, find out where your friend falls on the spectrum of germ precautions, but a few things tend to be basic for most newborns: wash your hands before holding the baby and don’t kiss him or her. You’re immune to the germs on that bathroom handle you touched earlier, but the baby isn’t. Same thing goes for your mouth.
Babies are 100 percent adorable, squeezable, and kissable, but just adore the for now and leave the kissing for the age when they’re teething and putting everything they can find in their mouths anyway, so whatever germs you might have (we all have them, calm down) won’t do much harm.
And there you have my list of pointers that I picked up as an inexperienced new mom – what are some tips that other moms can give? What did you wish that you’d known before becoming a mom yourself, what did you wish that your friends had known on your behalf? Leave them in the comments below, and help other mamas (and their friends) out!