Advice if You're Close to a New Mom

Monday, August 23, 2021

It’s all about preserving relationships.

A couple of weeks before Hank was born, a woman at church told me she wanted to talk to me about something. She and her husband will be new grandparents in September after their son and daughter-in-law welcome their first baby. She wanted to know, as a first-time grandparent invited to see the new baby, my advice on how to be the best mother/mother-in-law she could be in the situation. I appreciated her asking, and frankly I feel that the fact she asked means she’s going to do great. Nevertheless, here’s what I’ve got for any grandparent (or anyone) who is close to parents with a new baby. I also talked with a couple friends to get their input. I truly believe that these guidelines will lead to a peaceful, tension-free time for all. Graphic one is dos and don’ts for newborns, and graphic two is dos and don’ts if the parents also have an older child.


- Remember that you have no “right” to see the baby when you want to. If your child/child-in-law are letting you come to their house, that’s a gift, not a right. Along with that, if they ask you to delay your visit, accept that.

- Remember you are not there to hold the baby. The mother can give the baby everything he or she needs. You’re there to help. If you want to make dinner, grocery shop, or do laundry, visit. If you just want to hold the baby, delay your visit.

- If you want to do something with the baby, ASK. Don’t just say “I’ll hold the baby.” ASK THE MOTHER if you can. It’s just simple respect.

- Do not post pictures of people’s children on social media without their permission. I don’t care what your privacy settings are or how many friends you have. It’s incredibly disrespectful. And I mean ask every time, don’t just ask once and think it applies every time moving forward.

- Don’t share your problems with the mother. Her hormones are all over the place. She’s sleep deprived, emotional, and trying to hold it together. Even if it seems like she’s “okay,” still don’t. She doesn’t need the extra emotional burden of your problems at this time.

- If the parents have an older child (or children) and have asked you to be the caregiver for this child, listen to, care about, and follow any instructions or information the parents provide. No one loves grandparents more than I do (I still have a set of mine, and I adore them and have always done), and I understand grandparents spoil and indulge. They should! But there’s a time and a place. And a time of intense transition and upheaval, such as when a new sibling arrives, is not a vacation. The parents have asked you to help keep their older child’s life moving as smoothly as possible, so if you can’t respect that, or, more importantly, don’t want to or don’t think you should have to, delay your visit and allow them to ask someone who can.

- The absolute worst thing you can do is offer unsolicited advice. I don’t care how many kids you have, how great of a parent you think you are, or what your experience is, DO. NOT. OFFER. UNSOLICITED. ADVICE. of any kind, for any reason. I know you think you’re being helpful, but actually it’s insulting, and it’s hurtful. The parents also may be choosing to do things differently than you did. It doesn’t mean you did something wrong; everyone does the best they can with the information they have at the time. If you’re not sure if what you’re about to say is unsolicited advice or not, it probably is. When in doubt, keep your mouth closed. Practice saying “How can I help?” and “You’re doing great.”

Other parents, what would you add?

(Dedicated to Kathy, who breastfed five children but then accompanied me to a hospital lab waiting room where I struggled to breastfeed a 3-day-old Bert and sat there watching until I finally snapped, “Could ya help me?” at her. That’s how committed she is to not giving unsolicited advice. More importantly, I learned that the things above are as important as they are because she worked hard to do the “this” columns. Mom, your efforts did not go unnoticed.)

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