• When visiting new parents, we think to bring flowers, balloons — perhaps a little outfit and a stuffed animal for baby, too. All thoughtful gestures, but as a new mom who’s had her share of visitors recently, I want to share with you some tips that might make even better “gifts” for the new parents when you visit them at home.

    1. Bring food. Whether it’s one meal, or a week’s worth of frozen, just reheat-to-eat dishes, believe me when I tell you that all new parents will appreciate that more than a(nother) potted plant.

    2. Help around the house. New parents are sleep-deprived and over-tired. Between feedings, burping and diaper changes, there usually isn’t much time left for anything else before the cycle resets itself. So the house, and any related part of it – like pets (and that potted plant), inevitably (and unfortunately) become somewhat, if not completely, neglected. So when you visit, whether it’s doing the dishes, unloading the dishwasher, doing or folding a basket of laundry, mowing the lawn, or walking the dog – one chore done is one less thing off their list and trust me, they’ll love you for it. (Enjoy your new “Superhero” status – you’re welcome).

    3. Offer the parents time to themselves while you visit with the baby. Be prepared that a new mom may graciously turn you down because she’s probably not going to want to take her eyes off her precious cargo, but extend the offer nonetheless. Even 15 minutes can mean a power nap for Dad and a (much needed) shower for Mom. And let me tell you, Mom is going to want that shower.

    4. Watch the clock. Time becomes a rare commodity in the world of all things newborn. (Refer to point #2). While I have no doubt that the new parents will enjoy their time with you, they also probably wouldn’t admit to your face that they’d rather spend that last half hour from your hour and a half long visit taking a nap or, taking a nap. So enjoy your visit, but don’t overstay your welcome.

    5. Clean-up. If you’ve shared a meal during your visit, don’t just offer to help clean-up; do it. Don’t leave the new parents with extra work because of your visit. They’ll probably have to go right back to their changing, feeding and burping routine so if you don’t clean up, those dishes might still be there at your next visit (Refer to point #2 (again)).

    6. Offer to run some errands. Whether it’s picking up groceries or necessities on your way in, or dropping off something at the post office for them on your way out — no errand is too small. Remember, anything you can do for them is one less thing they have to worry about, Superhero.

    7. Don’t assume, ask the parents. When you hold someone else’s baby, don’t assume that they want their baby held or rocked in the manner that you would your own. Every parent has their own preference. Some may not want their baby rocked, or bounced like they’re riding a jackhammer. Just because the parents don’t say anything, doesn’t mean they’re OK with the way you’re holding their baby. Polite parents may cringe quietly. Do yourself a favor — be considerate and ask. You don’t want to be “that” guest who isn’t welcome back.

    8. Hygiene. Hygiene. Hygiene. Need I say more? Of course, I’m going to assume that you already know that hand washing is THE rule of thumb when visiting a newborn. In addition, throughout your stay, be conscious of where your hands go. If you rub your eyes, please wash your hands again. You may not think twice, but you can bet Mom is. And please, PLEASE, sneeze and cough into your arm, not your hands!

    9. Easy on the scents. You’re not going to a soiree or on a date where you need to impress. Babies have sensitive senses and could easily react to strong scents so please nix the fragrances while visiting. Trust me, babies don’t judge. They will love you for who you are, not how you smell. (Unless you smoke. And if you do, by golly, please refrain from doing so close to any time before you plan to visit. The scent of (second hand) smoke, while not proven harmful, is vile any day — not to mention around a baby).

    10. Check before bringing your children. Some parents are more germophobic than others, especially first-time parents. The thought of their newborn getting sick can be paralyzing. Whatever your beliefs are, don’t assume that other parents share them. They’re not saying your kid(s) have germs. They’re just protecting their own. Respect their decision and don’t take it personally.

    Now, I’m not advocating that you get rid of your 1-800-Flowers account, or boycott the balloon section of your local party store. Flowers and gifts are still wonderful — after all, who doesn’t like the celebratory feeling of a room filled with teddy bears and balloons? Just add the above list and you’re going to make for a golden visitor — with a surefire pass to return anytime.