So I will admit that in visiting my new baby nephew, I had my heart set on snuggling him a bit. It's a natural reaction to such crazy-adorable sweetness. But since my own babies were born, from the loving care we received from friends and neighbors, I've learned that there are some important things to remember when visiting a family who has just welcomed a baby. My across-the-street neighbor gave birth just a few days after my sister, and as excited as I am to meet her new little one too, we've simply dropped off food and let them know we're here for them if they need anything. Each family's needs and moods postpartum are so different, but here are some things I've found to be helpful--from my own postpartum experiences and from those I've assisted with.
Bring food. Any food, but especially food that doesn't need preparing, can be eaten with one hand while bouncing or nursing a baby, and will easily nourish the whole family. Chilis and soups, rices and pastas, even delivering a pizza or takeout Thai (um, that's for me) is so appreciated by families. Don't forget the sweets or easy breakfast fixins--muffins, cookies, fresh squeezed juice. This is an easy one. Don't show up without food, just don't.
Lend a hand. Are there dishes in the sink? Do them. Is there a diaper pail or kitchen trash that needs emptying? Hop to it. Just as you shouldn't enter a new family's home without food, you shouldn't leave it empty handed. Take out the recycling, throw in a load of laundry, walk the dog, take an older child out for ice cream. If you're not sure what to do, ask.
Ask how they're feeling. Are they overwhelmed? Again, ask how you can help. Are they blissed out and enjoying being together? Great. Tell them they're doing everything right and then get out of there and let them enjoy it.
Pay attention to everyone. Does a toddler or older child need some hugs or a sibling gift? Does a pet need a rub or a game of catch? Does her partner need anything from the store? Sitting and coloring with a child whose mother has been nursing around the clock and not able to care for them as much as usual is a bigger help to a new mama than you can know.
Tell her she looks great. Especially if she doesn't. When I look at the pictures of myself in the days after Declan's birth I laugh at how crazy I look, and smile that my darling friends had such sweet things to say to me in the days after. A compliment, even if it's "You look SO HAPPY," can save a mama's day. Really.
Listen. If she wants to talk about her birth, listen without judgement. Let her tell things the way she feels they happened. Let her process. Be a witness without trying to fix things. If she wishes things went differently, don't tell her "at least everyone's healthy, that's all that matters." Everything matters to her.
Come over uninvited. That should be under the "enough said" heading but many families and friends have trouble waiting or asking the expecting families when they'd actually like visitors. Not everyone is ready to be bombarded in the hospital room on day one, when breastfeeding is getting figured out, bodies are healing, and love hormones are a-flowin'. When in doubt, ask, and wait until a family is feeling settled in at home before any stays longer than a quick food drop-off.