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A Doula’s Guide to Newborn Visits: How to be Helpful Not Harmful


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A Doula’s Guide to Newborn Visits: How to be Helpful Not Harmful

A Doula’s Guide to Newborn Visits: How to be Helpful Not Harmful


We’ve all been there – the moment after you hear that someone you know has a brand spanking new, out-of-the-box baby there is an inclination to want to go be with mom and baby. You suddenly feel the urge to visit them, even at the hospital, so off you go! Sometimes you feel societal pressure and you REALLY don’t want to go if we are going to be honest – but that’s a topic for another day! It’s an exciting time either way, you get to see a newborn in their fresh baby state.

Let’s say you settle on a visit at the hospital before mom is discharged to show her you care. So you buy fruits, nuts, Mazowe and other snacks for mom, maybe a gift for the newborn and you feel very well equipped. Upon arrival at the hospital there are 4 other family members3, friends, and 2 workmates, all eager to see mom and baby. Suddenly the act of visiting at the hospital is justified, it can’t be a big deal if everyone is doing it!

Perhaps you visit at home on day 4 after giving mom a bit of time to recuperate because you want her to know she is on your mind, and you care. So you bring some snacks, flowers, cards, and baby’s gift. You get there and mom is running around for you – you are after all, the visitor so she is playing host. It’s normal – you did it before, or your friend, cousin, aunt, neighbour played host too 3 days after birth.

The real question is – how is mom and the household feeling about the visit? What would they like for you to do during the visit if you do visit? Well, if you have ever asked yourself this question you’re in good company. I have gathered some understanding from the various families I have served as a doula and advisor in Zimbabwe, here are 6 things moms wish people would understand about the process of visiting a newborn baby and their mom.

Ask mom when she thinks she will be comfortable for a visit before she gives birth (as in while she is pregnant)

It’s great to know what mom’s expectations are regarding visits before she gives birth so that you begin to prepare yourself for alignment with that. Respecting mom’s wishing is key to a happy visit for everyone because she is the one who has gone through major life and physical changes to get to this point of the visit. Pre-birth planning will give you and mom a ‘no pressure’ opportunity to discuss the ideal visit setup.

After she gives birth, confirm again before showing up

What mom thought she knew and wanted before birth, and what she knows and wants after birth might be worlds apart because of the state mom will be in post-birth. Should her mind be changed after birth compared to before, let her and give her what she needs. In case you did not know, birth is a physically exhausting and sometimes traumatising process for some mothers. It is very normal to have all sorts of discomfort thanks to birthing procedures, and some of them moms would rather not talk about, so even if you visit when they wish you had not they will act like everything is OK. Sometimes mom just wants to cocoon with her newborn and the household as much as possible, allow.

When you show up don’t be expectant that mom will serve you and host you

You are the visitor, not the host – that’s very right! But in this case mom is still in recovery mode, and even if you asked in advance and agreed on a date and time it does not mean she should now be exerting herself to keep you happy. Show up with a snack to share, a meal for later or just some food to top up their groceries. Usually something that won’t create extra work like takeaway or plates you will take home with you is ideal. Whatever your choice, be there to take care of mom and her newborn baby, not the other way around.

Be ready to be a pillar of strength where need be

During the visit mom may need you to just listen to her ramble on about the labour or the birth or the current state of life. Don’t then interject with, ‘Oh man! Mine was much worse – I don’t know what you’re moaning about’ or ‘You’re such a wuss! What did you expect going into labour? That thing is not a joke’. Sometimes new moms just want to talk it out, at times they will fall asleep while talking to you, and maybe they will even need you to help them around the house or with the newborn baby. Either way, be prepared for a visit where you become the hosting visitor.

Wait to be offered to hold or see the newborn

Yes, you came for the baby, mom has been around for ages so the baby is the real person you’re here for. However, said baby might be taking a nap, ill, or the parents don’t want to show them off on that day. Mom might want to hog her baby, she might want to make the most of her time with baby before going back to work. Whatever the case may be, rest assured that the time will come when you can play with the baby all you want.

If you or someone in your company is ill don’t go visiting a new-born

PLEASE, PLEASE, PLEASE don’t go visiting people with babies and toddlers while you or anyone you are with is not feeling well. Contagious diseases are very easy to pass on to those people, and once you leave the parents will be dealing with the aftermath. Wait until you have a clean bill of health before you expose the children to germs and viruses.

In all this just remember that mom needs you more than you need her, and sometimes she needs you from afar. Respect that and give it the weight it deserves, distance can be great at certain times, so can closeness. Regardless of which path mom chooses, please uphold her wishes through it all.

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Zimbabwean Foster & Adoptive mom, Birth Doula & Childbirth Educator

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