An Etiquette Guide to Engaging With New Parents, According to TikTok Mom Shawna Lander

There are few life events more significant than becoming a parent, so when it happens to even someone close to you, it's incredibly exciting. It's natural to want to check on new parents right away, whether that means bringing a casserole, holding the baby, or buying a hundred cute onesies. But amid all that excitement, it can be hard to remember that supporting a new parent is about them and their journey.

The first year of parenthood is overwhelming, to say the least, and it may take new parents some time to be ready for visits from friends and family. Once they are, it's important to support them in ways that they need on their own timeline, not just in the ways that you want to help. So, how can you be present and helpful without overwhelming new parents in your life? TikTok's Shawna Lander has some thoughts.

Lander is an actor, writer, and mom of two who's become known for sharing parenting tips in the form of skits. Lander started her TikTok account by primarily posting about relatable mom moments, but she fostered quite a community following her breast cancer diagnosis in 2021. Now cancer-free, Lander continues to offer nearly 449,000 followers her skits on navigating tricky social interactions that may come up in parenthood.

Lander tackles nearly every stage of the parenting journey, whether it's calling the ob-gyn for a first pregnancy appointment or helping in-laws figure out their place in their grandchild's life. Her videos are helpful for not only new parents, but also their friends who may be wondering how to politely ask about someone's birth story, why it's wrong to impose one's own experience on a new parent, and which behaviors aren't as helpful as one might think.

We tapped Lander to share her etiquette rules for engaging with new parents in your life. Below are her top takeaways.

Congratulate them right away, but wait to invite yourself over.

A congratulatory text as soon as you hear that the baby has arrived is always sweet, Lander says, but don't be offended if you don't receive a response, as it's an extremely busy time. Lander recommends waiting at least two weeks before asking your friend if they are taking visitors.

A new baby in your friend's life also shouldn't result in a sudden uptick in the frequency of your contact. "If you weren't already in frequent contact, lots of calls and texts from you can be overwhelming for your new-parent friend, even if you mean well," Lander says. If you were in daily contact before the baby, Lander recommends checking in every one to three days, and if they seem slow to respond, give them a few days of breathing room before you check in again. If you spoke less often before the baby came along, check in every few weeks.

Let the new parent lead.

Knowing the best ways to support a new parent can be challenging, especially if you haven't experienced parenthood yourself. Parenting is a unique journey for everyone, which is why it's so important to support new parents in ways that are unique to their needs.

"New parents are entering into a completely transformative stage of life and are doing all they can to be the best parents for their baby," Lander says. "They need respect for their parenting choices and vocal support for their caregiving abilities as much as they need dinner made and the dishes done."

When interacting with new parents, it's typically best to let them set the pace and tone for your communication and visit.
"New parents tend to be excited about the birth of their child, so they may be really eager to discuss the specifics, and in that case, ask away," Lander says. "On the other hand, if a new parent seems hesitant or isn't offering information about something, don't press. For example, if you ask about their birthing experience but they don't go into much detail, it's likely that they aren't ready to discuss it yet."

Make your visit as easy and stress-free as possible.

It's best to keep your visits to new parents brief, and make it clear that you don't expect them to host you. The last thing they should be worried about is feeding you when you come to visit.

As for how to act when you visit? That depends on the level of your friendship. "If you're a neighbor stopping by, bring a casserole, ask how the new parents are feeling, tell them how beautiful the baby is, and stay for 15 minutes, tops," Lander says. "If you're their best friend, exclaim your awe for that smart and gorgeous child every 10 minutes while you listen to your bestie describe in detail how it felt when her water broke."

Ask before you offer advice.

According to Lander, there are only two scenarios in which it's appropriate to give a new parent advice: first, if a new parent asks for advice and you have something helpful to say on the matter. The second requires a little more tact. "If you have advice to give on the topic at hand but they haven't specifically requested any advice, ask your friend if they'd like to hear it," Lander advises. "If they say yes, tell them what you know. If they decline, simply trust that your friend is smart and capable and doing their very best, and keep your advice and opinions to yourself — as you should in all scenarios."

Helping means more than holding the baby.

First off, it's totally OK to ask to hold the new baby, Lander says. "But it's also OK if the new parents say no, and if they say no, they have a reason, so please don't press the issue."

Keep in mind, however, that holding the baby so parents can "get stuff done" isn't as helpful as you might think, Lander says. While some new parents might welcome the break, others would rather not hand over their sweet new baby. If you truly want to be helpful, it's best to offer some options. For example, ask: "Can I clean for you, or would you rather I hold the baby while you have a break?"

When offering to help clean, make it clear that you genuinely want to help, so your friend doesn't feel like you're making a statement about the cleanliness of their home. As long as your offer is supportive, it can be incredibly helpful to offer to fold laundry or wash dishes.

Don't forget about taking care of the parents, too!

"Focus as much on the new parents as you do on the baby," Lander says. "There wouldn't be a baby if it weren't for them, and they matter too."

If you want to bring a gift, you can never go wrong with something off their baby registry. But if you want to bring something more focused on the parents, a GrubHub or Amazon gift card can be helpful; and if you're visiting them in person, bring coffee, flowers, or even a meal. Lander's pro tip for going above and beyond? Book them a house-cleaning service.

Don't be offended if new parents aren't ready for a visit just yet.

"New parents are adjusting to a monumental life change that impacts them deeply in every way," Lander says. "They may be overstimulated, they are almost certainly overtired, and they are likely overwhelmed with learning to care for a brand-new baby."

There are many reasons a new parent might not be ready for visitors, so it's best to try not to take it personally. She adds, "They love you and are excited to introduce you to their new baby; they simply need a little space and time to adjust first. Grant them that without pressing the issue."

Kaley Rohlinger is a freelance writer for POPSUGAR who focuses on health, fitness, food, and lifestyle content. She has a background in the marketing and communications industry and has written for POPSUGAR for over four years.