Health Break | Published October 30, 2006 | Written by Diane Elliott, RN

Being A Good Visitor To A New Mom

Becoming a first-time mom is a life-changing experience. You are in a bit of discomfort as well. Your bottom hurts. Your abdomen hurts. You've been sleeping three to four hours at a time. Physically, you are definitely not feeling your best.

On top of all this, there's a newborn at your house who requires nearly constant care not to mention the other people and things that need tended to.

The new demands of motherhood can be taxing on first-time moms. That becomes clear when it's noon and you're still in your bathrobe and unshowered.

Then, unannounced, a cheery visitor shows up at your door. She looks great and has her lovely family with her. You quickly rearrange the burp cloth over your shoulder to hide the worst of the stains. "Hi," she says, convinced that you're as glad to see her as you would be the sweepstakes prize van.

What do you do?

  • Meekly ask her to enter your Pamper-strewn abode;

  • Hint to her that now really isn't the best time to visit;

  • Hit her with a Pamper.

As a new mom, I could say that most of us probably go with "A," followed by "Uh, I'm so glad you stopped by."

Many of us can remember how much work newborns are. Trouble is, many of us forget.

Want to really help a new mom? Here are some suggestions:

  • Call before dropping by to visit. Even though you are sure you'll be welcome because you're such good friends, prove this and call. No one likes to have company when the house and hostess aren't at their best.

  • Be healthy. Remember, a newborn doesn't have much of an immune system. Also, its unsettling to a new mother when a coughing, hoarse or runny-nosed child is near her infant. If you or your family has any signs of illness, please postpone the visit. A common cold can actually be deadly to a newborn.

  • Bring healthy food. One of the most useful gifts you can bring to a new mom is a healthy meal or casserole. It doesn't have to be fancy. If you want to really score, call ahead and ask for preferences (especially if Mom is breastfeeding). Also, check out family food allergies. And to qualify as a true pal, use disposable containers.

  • Give useful gifts. Offer disposable diapers, wipes and gift certificates to discount stores. Or ask what is needed when you call. There were times when I'd have traded four dresses for a pack of wipes!

  • Be considerate. Unless you are visiting without children and are willing to stay and do the dishes, limit your visits to fifteen minutes or less. You could be the best of friends, but few of us like to converse when we can't remember the last time we brushed our teeth.

  • Be a real friend. Make a deliberate effort not to notice the diapers, dishes and little T-shirts that will inevitably be out of place. To make conversation, offer some encouragement like sharing (honestly) how overwhelmed you felt after your child was born, and how it was actually months until you were able to see your kitchen sink in its entirety.

  • Be a Superhero! Few of us fall into this category, but it's worth mentioning. (In-laws take note: this can make up for years of criticizing.) Stay for a few hours and help. "Call if you need anything" just doesn't have the same effect as simply doing what needs to be done. No fair making any negative comments. Cook a meal or two. Serve Mom a meal on the couch. If the baby takes a bottle, do a feeding so Mom can get a nap. If breastfeeding, burp and change the baby and get Mom refreshments. Answer the phone and take messages. And finally, guard the door to ward off other visitors who aren't quite as savvy as you!

Diane Elliott is a registered nurse, mother and clinical educator for Mount Nittany Medical Center.