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Family Matters

How to Stay Close to Your Baby-Free Friends

Your growing family doesn't mean you need to lose touch

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Friendships change. We don’t need scientific research to tell us that. But becoming a new parent may put your friendships through the biggest change of all, especially if your go-to person doesn’t have children of their own. From group dinners that don't include kids to the text messages at 6 p.m. that you have zero time to answer, motherhood can drive a wedge between old friends. But it doesn’t have to.

Here’s how to balance baby and friendship with your child-free pals:

Cheer on your friends. Having a baby is huge news, and you’ve likely been feted with baby showers and birthday visits. Don’t forget your friends are still having big things happen in their lives too, and one good turn deserves another. “We need to be vocal cheerleaders of each other,” says Shasta Nelson, author of Friendships Don't Just Happen! “It’s our job as friends.” Even if you can’t make it out for her big award night, you can always send flowers and a good luck text.

Avoid assumptions. “Mothers often look at kids as an extension of ourselves,” Nelsons says. But assuming that our friends look at kids in the same way can be off-putting. A friend may or may not want to have kids. Avoid comments based on the assumption that she plans to become a mom, unless she specifically says she does.

Offer to host a girls' night opener. You may not be ready to leave the baby alone yet for girls night, or maybe you want to introduce your pals to your kid without making the whole night about the baby. Throw together a cheese platter and invite your friends over for just an hour before girls' night. You’ll get to see them, they get to see baby, and there’s still time for baby-free fun.

Get together without the baby. This can be difficult, especially if you’re breastfeeding, don’t have a sitter you trust, or you’re just not ready to leave the baby. But Nelson says it’s always safer to assume the kids should not be a part of the friendship, at least at first. “Start from the place of ‘We were friends first,’” she says. “Treat it like a single girlfriend who started dating a new guy. You wouldn’t always want him to be there.”

Stay curious. You’re bound to want to talk about baby’s first smile and the first time he rolled over. But remember to ask your friends questions about their lives, and be excited for them (even if you have to fake it sometimes).

Speak up. No, your friends don’t have to want babies or even particularly want to cuddle with yours. But friendship is a two-way street, and your baby is now a major part of your life. If you feel like your friends aren’t there for you, say something. “Tell them, ‘I want my child to know what an amazing woman you are,’” Nelson suggests. “It’s fair to have a need, and it’s fair to say to a friend, ‘I really hope that you will spend time with me and my child.’”