What is the proper etiquette for visiting parents and their new baby? Jacqueline Whitmore, an internationally-recognized etiquette expert, author and founder of The Protocol School of Palm Beach, offers seven rules for baby etiquette.

1. Call ahead of time. Let the new mom decide when she would like visitors and respect her wishes. Don’t show up unannounced, keep your visit brief, don’t show up empty handed, and don’t expect to be waited on or entertained.

Leslie Gordy is mom to 20-month-old Ruby and nine months pregnant with her second child; she agrees that visitors should wait to be invited—and shouldn’t necessarily expect an invitation in those first few days or even the first week. “If it’s your first child, it takes a while to get into the groove of things or even feel like socializing,” she says. Plus, “family and friends often think it’s OK to visit while the infant is sleeping, but that’s when the mother should be sleeping too.” Be aware that your presence may make the new parents feel obligated to stay awake.

2. Never visit a newborn if you’re sick. Make sure that you are in good health—and that everyone with you, including your own child, is well—before visiting. “As a first-time mom who had a baby during flu season, I was so nervous about germs that I didn’t want anyone to bring their kids,” says Amanda Hoelzeman, mom to 7-month-old Miles. “Sometimes people don’t think about their daycare-aged kids and how germy they are.”

When you do arrive, don’t pick up the baby unless you have been invited to do so and be sure to wash your hands first if you have been invited to hold the baby. Tasha Amos, mom to 7-month-old Teia, adds: “Do not kiss a newborn on the face or lips. And don’t wear a lot of perfumes or colognes.”

3. Don’t offer your opinions unless asked. It seems like everyone has an opinion as to how to raise a child. If the mother asks for your advice, be careful not to offer too much. That’s what pediatricians are for.

4. Keep the focus on the new mom and her baby, not on yourself. Be careful not to “one up” the mother’s labor and delivery experience with details of your own. Everyone’s experience is different and some individuals may not want to hear about your delivery or share details about their own.

5. Names are a personal choice. Regardless of what the baby is named, be gracious with your response. Naming a child is a very personal decision, and the name parents choose is usually one they love. To make curt remarks or disapproving facial expressions is an insult to the parents.

6. Respect the mother’s privacy. If the mother decides to breastfeed her baby, be sure to ask if she would like you to leave the room during feeding time. Also, in spite of the fact that women are more relaxed these days with breastfeeding in front of others, some visitors may not feel comfortable watching. Consider asking if your guests or family members mind if you feed the baby in front of them.

7. Don’t forget daddy. Dads need bonding time with their new little bundles of joy. Friends and family could offer to take on some typical dad chores a time or two, such as washing cars or yardwork.

Ways to Help

Little Rock Family asked new and pregnant moms in our office how friends and family can help in the weeks and months after a new baby is born. Here’s their advice:

• Tell the new mom what an amazing job she is doing.

“I had no idea when I decided to breastfeed that it would be so demanding. Although it was very rewarding, it was also extremely tiring. I only knew two other moms who made breastfeeding a priority, so it was a struggle to find mommies to relate to. This is why I vividly remember how I felt the first time someone other than my husband told me how amazed they were by me, that they saw how hard it was and told me they were proud me. It meant the world to me and it invigorated me enough to keep going,” says Lindsay Irvin, mom to 15-month-old Grace.

• Offer to bring dinner—and maybe a freezer meal, too.

“We had SO much food in the beginning,” says Amanda Hoelzeman, mom to 7-month-old Miles. “While I appreciated each and every gesture, there was more than we could ever have eaten. Think about bringing a meal a few weeks in (when the help begins to dry up), or bring a freezer meal.”

• Ask to hold the baby during your visit.

“It helps mama get a small break and really concentrate on the conversation with visitors,” says Lindsay. But be respectful if the new parent seems hesitant or has any special requests, like washing your hands.

• Run errands, wash dishes and offer help.

“Offer to come over and just sit with the baby while mama sleeps or showers. Or, offer to help out with something easy around the house,” Amanda suggests. “‘Can I empty your dishwasher for you, or wash some bottles?’ would have been the sweetest sound I had ever heard during those first weeks.”