The first rule for taking your kids to visit a newborn is this: Consider not taking them at all. This isn’t because new parents (or new babies) hate kids. It’s because parents of newborns are usually exhausted. They are often in desperate search for peace and quiet. And, no matter how quiet and gentle your kids might be, they’ll probably bring a whiff of chaos—a lingering possibility of noise and disruption—into any new baby’s home.
But if you absolutely must bring your kids to visit a newborn, it might help the baby and their parents if you abide by the following rules:
1. Kids not up to date on their vaccines? Your visit can wait.
Because they aren’t yet fully protected by vaccines—or by any immunity passed on from their mothers—newborns are especially vulnerable to communicable diseases. Don’t be that person who passes on the flu or pertussis to a new baby. (This goes for your kids and for you.)
To new parents, a little mess can seem like a huge, energy-sapping disaster.
2. Don’t even think about taking a sick kid to visit a newborn.
For babies under 3 months old, fevers often warrant a trip to the doctor or emergency room. For newborns, the risks of fever are especially high. And though babies are exposed to enough germs in their home environments, they don’t need you and your kids bringing additional germs into their space. Moreover, their parents don’t need you giving them any reason to take their baby back to the hospital.
3. Don’t leave your kids unattended, even if it means forgoing the chance to hold that delicious, snuggly new baby.
Kids like to explore their worlds with all five senses: especially touch. Left to their own devices, even the most well-behaved child can touch (or lick or wipe their boogers on) things that a new baby’s parents might want left alone. Think about it: When your kids unfold a pile of blankets, it might seem like a quaint mess to your eyes. But to new parents, a little mess can seem like a huge, energy-sapping disaster.
Let’s keep their home a disaster-free—and quaint mess-free—zone.
If you must take your kids to visit a new baby, let it be a learning experience for them.
4. Don’t overstay your welcome.
I'm talking 30 minutes—tops. Even shorter, if you can. New parents are often too tired for long conversations, and no one should ever expect them to play host. Let your kids see the baby, let them express their love and congratulations, and then scoot on out of there.
5. Do bring coffee, tea or food (especially food).
And do a load of laundry or pick up a bag of groceries. Be a helper, not just a visitor.
If you must take your kids to visit a new baby, let it be a learning experience for them. Ask them to help carry groceries into the new family’s kitchen. Have them help you prepare a meal (after washing their hands thoroughly!). Teach them how to fold laundry. Your kids will learn a valuable lesson in generosity, and the new parents will appreciate their (and your) kindness.
Can’t follow most or all of these rules? Then your kids’ visit can wait. That baby will still be a baby for an entire year, but they’ll have a heartier immune system and (we hope) more well-rested parents when they’re a few months old.
Your kids will probably have more fun playing peekaboo with an older baby than staring at a squawking (though nonetheless adorable) blob of a newborn anyway.