Lauren M.G. Burt: What to expect when a friend is expecting

Published on April 8th, 2014 | by Lauren M.G. Burt

Welcoming a baby is an exciting adventure. For new parents, it can be equal parts amazing and daunting. When a friend has a baby, it may be the first experience you have attending a shower, visiting the hospital, holding a baby or interacting with a new mom. In full disclosure, I am sans baby but know many people who have kids or will soon. And I’ve been witness to the faux pas that occur when pregnancies and babies come on the scene.

The following suggestions are to assist in navigating the world of new babies and being the best friend you can be to new parents.

Pre-baby: When someone is expecting, be a friend — not an expert. Offer truthful, thoughtful advice and ideas only when asked. Every parent-to-be has his or her own ideas about parenthood. Be cautious when passing judgment or discussing topics like eating sushi, natural births, vaccinations and breastfeeding. Refrain from any and all comments about weight gain. Also, beware of touching a woman’s belly, only touch when given permission. You wouldn’t want someone touching your belly unexpectedly, nor does a pregnant woman.

Showers: When hosting a baby shower, work closely with the mom or parents-to-be to honor their desires. Party favors and shower games can add to the festivities. Inspiration can be found at the mecca of party planning — also known as Pinterest. When attending a shower, utilize baby registries for gifts and ask other parents what they appreciated receiving.

Helping hands: Once the baby arrives, ask the parents what they need and how you can best support them. Always schedule your visit to the hospital or home. Never show up unannounced. New parents are full of emotions with limited sleep while adjusting to a newborn. Offer assistance to bring over a meal, walk the dog, run an errand or assist with the baby while mom takes a shower. Whatever the scenario, err on the side of effort and be as helpful as possible.

Friends with food: New parents often say prepared meals are their top choice for post-birth gifts. Be sure to ask about allergies and preferences on meal favorites. Create an organized meal schedule with mutual friends, drop off full meals than can be frozen or make great leftovers. When dropping off food, don’t expect to stay and eat. A restaurant meal can be a treat when a family hasn’t gone out in weeks.

Visitor 101: If you’re feeling ill, have the slightest sniffle or sneeze — don’t visit the baby. Skip strong perfume or cologne that may irritate the baby or the new mom. Keep visits to 20-30 minutes — close friends or family may stay longer, but anything over an hour can be challenging. Think about bringing a small gift or treat just for the mom and other siblings; the new baby gets a lot of attention, so thinking of the parents and other children is a considerate gesture. Overall, take cues from the parent during the whole visit.

Post-baby: A friend with a baby is still a friend. Keep a positive attitude and be as supportive as possible. That friend may need a bit more consideration and kindness at times. Don’t forget to include them in life as you did before they became parents; there will come a time they will want to socially and professionally re-engage.

About the Author

Lauren M.G. Burt is an avid collector of etiquette books. She is the 2012 Juice Young Professional of the Year, past president of the Junior League of Des Moines and an anthropologist of modern day manners.Email your modern-day etiquette questions to Lauren M.G. Burt at You may see your query answered in the next column.

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