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With all the excitement of visiting a newborn, it is easy to forget that new mum and new baby are still adjusting to each other and to the new situation.
You may visit them with the noblest of intentions, but you may fail to realize that you are causing offence or intruding.
Here's how you can navigate the minefield that is a visit to a newborn:
1. Don't rush to visit the newborn at the hospital.
Remember that mum and baby have had a rough time during labor and delivery, and they would appreciate the chance to rest and get to know each other before the world comes rushing in to meet them.
The newborn isn't going to change in a week. You can afford to wait until they come back home and then plan your visit.
If you must visit the newborn at the hospital, make it quick. Don't hang around chatting up the husband and trying to take selfies with the newborn. Mum will definitely appreciate your thoughtfulness!
2. Don't take pictures of the newborn without permission.
Ideally, you shouldn't take pictures at all because the camera flash can damage the infant's eyes. Don't assume that the parents will be delighted to have pictures of their newborn splashed around on social media. The announcement of a birth is a very personal one. Let mum and dad decide how they want to do it.
3. Never drop in unannounced.
For most mums, breastfeeding is a skill that takes time and patience to learn. Mum could be struggling to feed her little one when you artlessly decide to drop in without notice. Or she could be having a particularly tearful day. Or she could just not be in the mood to receive visitors. Don't assume that just because you're both women and maybe close friends, she's comfortable feeding in front of you.
Respect her feelings and give her her space.
4. Never give unsolicited advice or comment on either mum or newborn.
Unless you have something nice to say about the newborn or the mum, you're better off keeping your mouth shut and simply smiling.
Don't comment on the infant's size, shape, or color. Don't ask about her birth weight. Don't tell mum how tired she looks. Don't ask her to perk up, either!
Don't share your labor and delivery story unless asked. And simply do not ask the inane question--"How's motherhood treating you?" It's hard and you can see that for yourself.
Instead, do ask if the newborn has been given a name and then express delight, even if you hate the name. Do ask mum how she's feeling. This is a time when everybody is focused on the infant and mum is ignored. She'll feel good to get some attention.
5. Never visit when you're sick or have recently recovered from an illness.
Even if it is just a common cold, put off your plans to visit until you have completely recovered. A newborn is a delicate creature with an immature immune system. Tread carefully!
Don't touch the newborn without washing your hands with soap or rubbing them with sanitizer. It might be even better if you didn't touch the newborn at all. Gaze at her from a distance--she sleeps most of the time anyway!
Don't sneeze or cough into a newborn's face. Smoking near a newborn is a big no-no as well.
People with no experience of being around newborns may not even realize that they're giving offence. So it pays to do your homework if you want to be invited to share the delightful gurgles of laughter that the newborn will soon be breaking into, a few months later!