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What New Parents Really Want from Friends & Family (But Don’t Say Out Loud)
Updated on
September 11, 2023

What New Parents Really Want from Friends & Family (But Don’t Say Out Loud)

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What New Parents Really Want from Friends & Family (But Don’t Say Out Loud).
What New Parents Really Want from Friends & Family (But Don’t Say Out Loud)

When a new baby arrives, it can be hard to resist smothering them with all your love. But when you think about what to give baby, don’t forget to consider their parents, too.

After all, parents are the gatekeepers for this deliciously squishable bundle of joy. If you want to be part of baby’s life, you need the parents’ blessing. In the delirious, time-has-no-meaning state of newborn life, parents’ wants and needs are constantly changing. And even if they know what they need from you right now, they might have a hard time communicating it.

Read on for a deep dive into all the things parents want to tell you…but don’t. You’ll hear from both experts and new moms* to discover what’s going on inside a new parent’s head—and how you can best support their entire family.

*Last names have been omitted to protect the sleep deprived.

1. Let’s agree on the best time to visit the new baby

Everyone wants to visit a new baby. To hold that wiggly little peanut in your arms, to smell that baby powder smell, to know that you are responsible for protecting this little soul for even just five minutes…a visit to a new baby can be pure bliss.

But if you want to be a welcome visitor, make sure you’re making your visit easy on the parents.

Ask parents when you should visit, come ready to help in whatever way parents need you to pitch in and don’t expect to be waited on. Take your cues from the parents—they may be in need of human contact or completely overwhelmed by trying to host. When in doubt, make your visit short, come bearing food and be prepared for anything.

New moms say:

  • “Please bring food when you visit and please don’t come over and expect to be fed. We’re going on 90 minutes of sleep at a time and the last thing I want to worry about is feeding you when I haven’t been to the grocery store in weeks.” – Shaida
  • “Don’t offer to hold the baby. Instead offer help when you see me running around washing bottles and folding laundry. That’s the help I’d really appreciate.” – Francesca.
  • On the other hand… “If you want to come and ‘help,’ then help me put the baby back to sleep after feedings so I can get some rest. I don’t need help with the laundry.” – Jennifer (See? It’s best to ask what parents need!)
  • “Don’t comment on how messy my house is or how tired I look. Trust me, I already know.” – Jill

2. Please don’t kiss the baby (yet!)

Babies are pretty much designed to be so cute that they wrap us around theirteeny fingers. Our impulse to kiss them may feel completely natural. But doing so may make parents more than a little nervous. In fact, there are lots of reasons why you shouldn’t kiss newborns—especially on the face, lips or hands.

Doctors typically warn parents to protect weeks-old babies from germs, and living through pandemic times has raised that threat level. So a kiss may not be just a kiss in this case, even for grandparents who are just dying to kiss their grandchildren. A temperature of just 100.4 degrees in a baby under three months can trigger a visit to the emergency room and even a potential spinal tap.

Checklist: Planning a Safe Newborn Visit

  • Make sure you have absolutely no cold symptoms
  • Ask in advance of your visit if you should wear a mask or follow other parental precautions
  • Thoroughly wash your hands with soap and water in front of the parents immediately upon your arrival
  • Ask if—don’t assume—you can hold baby
  • Finally, after checking all of these boxes, ask if you can kiss the baby. (But refrain from smooching their face, mouth or hands.)

Does this seem like a lot of steps for one little kiss? Yes. But think of it this way—the more reassurance you can give parents that you’ll follow their wishes, the more they will trust you.

New moms say:

  • “Don’t come to my house when you have a ‘little cold’!” – Julie
  • “Wash your freaking hands, people, the moment you step foot inside my house!” – Lauren
  • “Please don’t kiss the newborn. It’s not something we should have to tell you. Just don’t do it.” – Diana

3. Want to help? Offer specifics and make it easy to say yes

You may be wondering how to help new parents, whether in person or from a distance. After all, you truly care about both the new parents and the newborn baby and want to support them in any way you can. It can be tricky to figure out how to help lighten the load for the family.

“What can I do to help?” is a lovely question, but it might feel difficult for new parents to answer. Often they don’t know what they need—their world has been turned upside-down and it’s difficult to plan even an hour in advance.

It also might feel strange or difficult for new parents to accept help. Social media makes it seem easy to take care of a baby, a home and a blowout without breaking a sweat. But in fact, even doing one of these things is incredibly difficult.

You might try offering parents a list of your services, like: “I’m happy to pack your kids’ school lunches for a week, do your share of the carpool or make five frozen dinners in containers you do not have to return to me. Which is most helpful?” And then follow through with exactly what the parents ask you to do.

If parents decline, offer different, specific types of help the following week…and the week after. Some parents will take you up on the offer and some may not. Regardless of their response, they will appreciate that you were thinking of them.

New moms say:

  • “Don’t say you will do ‘anything to help’ and then say no to the type of help requested!” – Ailene
  • “Flip the laundry, empty the dishwasher, walk the dog. In the very beginning, I was simply too tired and defeated to be confrontational with my parents, but with baby #2 on the way, I fully expect that if you’re showing up, it’s not a social call.” – Liz

4. Make sure you have our permission before posting on social media

If you are a proud new grandparent, aunt or uncle, of course it’s tempting to send out a blast telling followers how thrilled you are about baby’s arrival.

Parents may have their own opinions about acceptable social sharing of their baby’s name and photos. Plus, it’s kind of a bummer to post a newborn photo…only to realize that your mother-in-law already posted the same photo three hours prior.

There are some pics you shouldn’t share. It’s the parents’ prerogative as to what, when and how they post photos on Facebook or Instagram.

Talk to parents before you post anything about baby on social media. And if they say, “Don’t post pictures of my newborn,” then just don’t do it.

New moms say:

  • “Do not pressure me to post pictures so you can post pictures.” – Grace
  • “Don’t post pictures without asking [especially] if you haven’t tried to meet baby or acted like you took them yourself.” – Jessica
  • “We’re trying to get a million things done …. we’re just trying to survive. Sending you photos and videos is not our priority right now.” – Susana

5. Advice for new parents is abundant, but a listening ear is priceless

Do you have words of advice for new parents on what to expect? You might want to keep them to yourself.

It can be tempting to tell someone how to parent a newborn. After all, you care about them and want them to learn from your mistakes. You want to give them the shortcut to success. You don’t want them to suffer in any way.

But it’s important for parents to have the grace and space to make mistakes. They will forge their own path and find their own solutions. Often what they want from you is to listen to their stories about struggles with breastfeeding, the 15 times baby woke up last night or that time baby tried to eat dog food. Giving parents an outlet for their thoughts and feelings is often more important than trying to solve their problems.

Sometimes parents really will want your advice. After all, you may be an encyclopedia of knowledge about swaddling, sleep training and thumb sucking. If they do want your advice, they will ask for it. Otherwise, try to do more listening than talking.

New moms say:

  • “I want to say, ‘Well, you did what you knew and it was fine, but it’s no longer recommended now.’ Somehow I can’t say it out loud politely.” – Marina
  • “Stop saying things like, ‘Well, we didn’t do it that way back in our day,’ in a way that suggests we are doing it ‘wrong,’ ‘going overboard,’ and/or are ‘being ridiculous.’ I am specifically thinking about things like blackout curtains, white noise, nap schedules. Things change. We learn. Come along for the ride.” – Diana

6. Setting healthy boundaries will make our relationship stronger

It can be a challenge for new parents to set boundaries—and for grandparents, relatives and friends to understand and accept them.

But that understanding and acceptance is exactly what new parents need from you.

Sure, you want to be incredibly involved in baby’s life, especially if you are brand-new grandparents. But grandparents are not parents, and they should not overstep the boundaries parents set.

What might these boundaries be? Parents might want you to only visit at certain times, they may want to feed baby themselves, they may not want the television on when baby is awake, they may not want to disturb baby during naptime even if you traveled a long distance for a short visit.

Even if you don’t agree with the boundaries that parents set, respect them. Show parents you’ll follow their lead. Remember, parents are doing the best they can to succeed at the awesome responsibility of raising a good human.

You can always ask questions or have a thoughtful conversation about how and why they are making decisions, but be careful not to be disrespectful of their choices. In fact, try to praise them for being so conscientious in their new roles. The more they trust that you understand boundaries, the more they will trust you.

New moms say:

  • “Tell me it’s going to be okay and try to honor my baby schedule.” – Kathryn
  • “If we tell you not to come to the hospital, do not just show up at the hospital. You’re just adding unneeded stress when momma, daddy and new baby are trying to bond.” – Shaida
  • “I don’t want to nurse in front of you. So please give me privacy.” – Jessica

Remember that when you see a new parent, there is a LOT going on under the surface. They may be struggling between being polite and being honest or trying to be the person they were before baby and just learning about the person they are after baby.

The most important thing for you to do is to be with them on the journey in whatever way they need, whether it’s showing up in person to help them struggle through the witching hour or giving them space to figure things out on their own.

They will really appreciate knowing that you’re on their team and rooting for them to succeed.


Babylist Staff

Babylist editors and writers are parents themselves and have years of experience writing and researching, coming from media outlets like Motherly, the SF Chronicle, the New York Times and the Daily Beast, and the fields of early childhood education and publishing. We research and test hundreds of products, survey real Babylist parents and consult reviews in order to recommend the best products and gear for your growing family.

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