Always bring a gift for the mother and don't outstay your welcome: the etiquette of visiting someone with a new baby
Archie Harrison Mountbatten Windsor is introduced to his relatives CREDIT: REX
Lovely thing, a new baby. But people get competitive about them. A bit like jostling for a decent pew at a wedding or funeral (must have a good view), many of us want to be first to report that we’ve held it.
The strange human compulsion to claim proximity to someone when they depart from this life – “I saw him buying Anusol only last week in the chemist!” – apparently also grips us when they slide into it.
“Adorable,” we say smugly to a mutual friend who hasn’t yet found time to visit. “Although she’s got her father’s nose.”
The Duke and Duchess of Sussex will be discovering this. Doubtless the family WhatsApp groups have been pinging with messages about who’s popping into Frogmore Cottage when, along with offers to pick up fresh milk and nappies.
Almost inevitably, however, I have a few rules to issue should you be in a similar situation with a relative or close pal who’s recently “been delivered” of a child, as the formal notices declared last week. First up, with the possible exception of the baby’s grandmother, do not assume that you are the most important visitor and need to rush over as soon as they’re home from hospital. Newborns are fairly inert beings. He is unlikely to spout his first word or start juggling any time soon. Let the shell-shocked parents get used to him before you invite yourself round and demand multiple cups of tea.
Try not to be tiresome in any way while there. A friend with a six-month-old hints that it’s a kindness to take a present for the mother instead of yet another Sophie the Giraffe for the babe.
Flowers are all very well but I’ve dropped in on friends with babies whose sitting rooms resemble Kew greenhouses, tulips drooping from jam jars because they’ve run out of vases to stuff the bouquets in. Perhaps a bottle of bath oil or a decent pot of moisturiser instead?
If they’re anything like my friends, they’ll be gagging for a drink, so champagne also works. I’m sorry to admit that I’ve previously made a nuisance of myself by demanding new mothers take 382 photos of me holding their baby so I could Instagram it later. The baby often wakes in the process and this seems to go down badly. Avoid. In fact, check what their photo policy is. This may sound headmisstressy, but some parents don’t want their new bundle anywhere near the internet.
My mother also advises that you don’t say “Oooh, isn’t he looking sun-tanned?” because he might have a touch of jaundice, which everyone is attempting to remain calm about. Make sympathetic noises when they talk of how tired they are or how traumatic the birth was. This social call is not in any way about you.
Know when to leave (an hour is plenty) and, ah yes, I nearly forgot about breast feeding. Obviously it’s a capital offence to admit any feelings of awkwardness about a nursing bra being unbuckled in front of you these days. But say you blanche ever so slightly at the sight of a nipple, don’t shriek “Oh my god, they’re the size of conkers!” as a male friend once managed.
Nor should you goggle at the breast pump box, like another confused male chum of mine, and say “But why would you want them to get bigger?” It’s the sort of line one can imagine the Duke of Edinburgh trotting out to the poor Duchess if he swings round in the next few days, so we must hope he reads this first.