Being a Good Friend to New Parents
Published on: September 15, 2019
Have a friend who is about to have a baby? Here’s how to be an A+ friend to the new parents. If you are pregnant, be sure to share this with your friends and family!
By Emma McNerlin
With the arrival of a baby, the world tilts a little bit on its axis, early days and weeks can meld into each other, and new parents can fall off the friendship radar for weeks as they get to know their new crying-eating-pooping-sleeping machine (not necessarily in that order!). So here are some tips for being an A+ friend to new parents.
1. STOP with the “baby watch” messages.
Before baby has even arrived, I promise you what no expecting woman wants is her phone buzzing with a litany of Whatsapp messages and Facebook posts on the #AnyNewsYet #WhereIsBaby theme. In the closing weeks of her pregnancy, your friend probably feels like she has been growing this baby for half of her natural life.
It’s much better to send her a lovely message along the lines of “I am here for you, shout out if you need me. You are going to do great. I’m looking forward to meeting your beautiful baby whenever they decide to arrive” and leave it at that.
2. Wait to be asked to come to visit.
When baby finally does arrive, you probably want to hear all about the birth and you are itching to get a cuddle and get high on that new baby smell—but hold up!
Your friend has been through a pretty big experience both physically and emotionally and needs time to process it and to recover, heal, and bond with baby. If your friend is breastfeeding, she will also need time in the early days to learn this skill along with baby, and it’s best if this is not interrupted.
Don’t rock up at the hospital unless she expressly invites you. Find out from her before baby arrives: she may have a no-visitor preference or family-only. Remember, it’s their choice. Sneaky “Oh, I’m passing by so I will just pop in for two minutes” tactics are not cool.
Babies remain super cute for a long time. You will have plenty of time for cuddles in the weeks and months ahead.
3. Observe first-visit etiquette.
When you finally get the green light to visit the new baby, keep the visit short, to begin with. As the weeks go on, you can visit for longer periods, and your friends will appreciate the company more.
It can all be overwhelming for new parents, especially if they have had a stream of guests over days or weeks. If the baby is sleeping, leave them to rest. Don’t bring up the birth story unless they do. Don’t tell them how knackered they look, and don’t be surprised if they struggle to finish their sentences. DO NOT share any pictures of their baby on social media without their expressed permission. Don’t expect to be entertained. If you want a coffee, make it, and make them one while you are at it; or even better, bring them a Starbucks when you come!
4. Give time, not stuff.
I promise you, your friend probably has a ton of baby clothes (usually all for 3-6 months). Visiting family will likely descend with suitcases full of gear for baby, even though they mostly live in a vest and nappy for the early weeks and months, especially in the Bangkok heat.
Think about giving time to your friend instead. Offer to watch baby in the day to let her sleep, take a shower, or get a blow-dry, as she has likely been surviving with dry shampoo for a while. Babysitting IOUs are always welcomed.
If you can’t give your time, consider getting her a session with a postnatal doula or a lactation counselor if she needs feeding support. These professionals are great for providing evidence-based support to help new mums build confidence in their parenting.
Okay, this is all good, but I know you won’t be able to resist buying the stuff. So, if you must buy something for your friends, maybe think about a couple’s massage voucher that they can use when baby is a bit bigger, or a gift basket of treats, or even setting up a meal delivery for a few days. If you insist on buying something for baby, why not buy a voucher for their first shoes? By the time baby is walking, the gift trail will have run out and your friends will be reminded of your thoughtful gift.
5. Their baby, their choice!
It may take a village to raise a child, as the old African proverb goes, but that doesn’t mean you get a vote in how your friends choose to parent, no matter how close you are as friends! No one likes a judgy-mcjudge face, and friendships can be fractured by some ill-timed advice, no matter how well-meaning.
Give your opinion ONLY when it is sought and remember always to be kind. No matter how alternative the name is that they have chosen, smile sweetly and tell them it’s perfect.
Accept that they are finding their way as parents and that their philosophy might differ from yours.
6. Allow them to share.
Parenthood can be overwhelming and can take its toll on relationships, as couples find their feet in their new role as parents. Create space for them to share. Ask them how they are feeling and listen to what they tell you. Acknowledge that parenthood is a tough transition and that life with a baby can be frankly knackering, dull, and boring. Normalize this for them; I promise you, it is a shared experience of many new parents. Allow them to vent their frustrations if they need to, in confidence and without judgment. If you are concerned that they need help beyond your friendship, put them in touch with the BAMBI Bumps team, who can signpost them for help.
7. Stay in touch.
As the newness of the situation wears off and the visits drop off, new parenthood can be a lonely time. Get in the habit of sending a regular message to your new-mom friend to let her know that you’re thinking of her and that you don’t expect a reply.
As the weeks go by, getting out and about with baby and meeting other new mums can help combat loneliness that lots of new mums feel. Offer to take her to the new mums’ group or the baby massage class, so she can start to build her network of new mum friends.
Don’t forget the dads too. If you are a dad, consider setting up a regular dad and baby coffee meet up on the weekend, or if your friend is a stay-at-home dad, let them know about BAMBI Bumps who have many SAHDs coming to our weekly meetups.
Image courtesy of Cristian Newman on Unsplash.
About the Author
Originally from Ireland, Emma is a UK-trained midwife who worked in the maternity unit at a busy NHS hospital just outside London. Emma moved to Bangkok with her husband in 2014; they have a 14-year old son, Toby. Volunteering with BAMBI Bumps and Babies since August 2015, Emma regularly conducts sessions on pregnancy, birth, breastfeeding, and Infant First Aid. In her spare time, she enjoys baking and Muay Thai, and is an active member of her son’s parent group at school.
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