In the Netherlands there are protocols for lots of things: you don’t just pop over to your neighbours for a cup of coffee, but rather plan it in your agenda; and when it comes to a newborn baby, there are several unwritten rules you should try to follow.
So if a Dutch friend just had a baby, these are some things to keep in mind, or, if you are expecting yourself, these are some things you can expect from any Dutch friends who may want to visit, or things to take into consideration in introducing your new baby to the world.
1. Make an appointment to visit
Whip out that Dutch agenda to make an appointment to visit the new parents and baby. Usually, about 1 week after the birth the parents send out announcement cards, and on there they will have contact information and sometimes a note about when visits are possible and how to arrange them.
2. Arrive on time and don’t stay too long
It is important to arrive on time, and certainly don’t turn up 15 minutes early. The new parents may be busy changing a nappy or doing a quick feed before your visit. So if you arrive early, take a little walk around the area before ringing the doorbell. And if you are running a little late, send them a message just to let them know and apologise. Usually your visit should last about an hour, long enough to chat, eat some ‘beschuit met muisjes’, maybe cuddle the baby, but not tire anyone out. And if you arrived late, take that into consideration and leave a bit earlier.
3. Don’t assume you can pick up the baby
The new parents may have particular wishes when it comes to handling their new baby, so always ask politely if you can hold the baby or wait to be offered. Some parents will ask you to use anti-bacterial hand gel first, while some parents won’t want you to hold the baby at all (this can be part of their parenting method, like attachment parenting, and nothing to do with you). If the baby is sleeping nicely or is sitting in the sling, wait patiently; there will come a time when you can cuddle with the baby.
4. Something to eat
It is a Dutch tradition to serve beschuit met muisjes when a new baby is born. This is a twice baked crispy rusk biscuit, smeared with butter and topped with pink or blue (depending on the baby’s gender) aniseed sprinkles. If you are close to the new parents, it is also nice to bring them a tasty oven dish or a dish that you know the parents like. Finding time to cook a good healthy meal as new parents is tricky, so it can be appreciated more than a present!
5. Don’t visit if you are sick
No matter how much you want to see the baby, do not visit if you are ill. If you already made an appointment to visit, call up to let them know you can’t make it as soon as possible. Little ones are very vulnerable, and the parents will not appreciate it if they child gets a snotty nose or fever after you visited while ill. If you have a cold sore stay away completely as they can be life-threatening to babies. And if you may have been exposed to chicken pox, or are bringing a child to see the baby who may have been exposed to chickenpox, best wait a couple of weeks longer to visit, just to be sure you don’t expose the baby.
6. Lend a hand
Those first weeks as a new parent are rough, getting used to taking care of a little one and all the extra tasks around the home that come with it. So if you see something that you can help with, offer it. Have you enjoyed a nice cup of coffee and some beschuit met muisjes? Then offer to wash up the dishes before you leave.
7. Be positive and polite
Maybe baby has an odd shaped head from the birth, or white milk spots all over their face; the parents don’t need to hear that. Just say how beautiful and cute the baby is, ask after who they get their nose or eyes from. And try to not give unsolicited advice, just ask them how they are finding it and listen to their story. If they ask for tips, or say they are struggling with one thing in particular then share some wisdom, else keep it zipped.
8. No to Social Media
Had a lovely visit? Taken some lovely photos and selfies with baby? Don’t share them via Social Media without asking if the parents are alright with it. Instead send the photos via mail or WhatsApp to the parents, and ask if you can post one or two online. Many parents do not want photos of their baby on the internet, or want there to be an adult in the photo or the baby’s face not visible, and you need to respect that.