Nearly all families plan and decorate a new baby’s nursery well before she is born. Many expectant families plan and purchase baby’s going home outfit. Some families even make plans for a newborn photo session in the first week! Few families, however, make plans to specify or limit the number of visitors to see baby in the first weeks after birth. Yet, many parents -- especially mothers -- report feeling overwhelmed, exhausted, and overly emotional in those first few weeks. Fielding and engaging with a steady stream of visitors (or a continuous visitor, like someone who is staying with you) can increase those feelings, and cause undue stress during a time that is already challenging.
Consider that in the first few weeks postpartum, you will be:
- Recovering physically from birth (lots of trips to the bathroom, heavy postpartum bleeding, sore perineum, swollen and leaky breasts)
- Experiencing an immense fluctuation of hormones
- Learning how to breastfeed or bottle feed
- Feeding often
- Lacking showers
- Lacking a “normal” routine
- Waking up at odd hours of the night
- Lacking sleep
- Seeking naps
- Tired (noticing a trend?)
Now imagine that while all of the above is happening, your mother, father, brothers, aunts, best friends, neighbors, co-workers, and spouse’s friends are all stopping by, excited to meet your new baby. Perhaps some of them come together and stay for a few hours. Or maybe out-of-town family members pop in and stay for the week. And every other afternoon, a different local friend comes by to snuggle your new baby. What kinds of things do you typically worry about when a visitor comes – clean house? Providing food and drink? Lively conversation? How would those concerns be affected by sleep deprivation, a baby who needs to be fed and is fussy, the fact that you haven’t showered in two days, and feeling emotionally charged?
It’s hard to imagine the early days of your new life with baby, but know that many families later say they wished they would have had more time by themselves after baby was born; few say they didn’t have enough visitors.
Postpartum Visitor Strategies
Speaking up about limiting visitors can be tricky. Especially when it comes to family. There are expectations and obligations, and feelings can get hurt. But it’s important to have these conversations well in advance of baby’s arrival. The time you have with your baby after she is born is fleeting – you can’t get it back. Ultimately, you have to decide what you will stick up for and what you are willing to sacrifice. Explain to family and friends the importance of your time together as a new family, time to spend skin-to-skin with baby, and the rest you will need and want. Know that in most cases, hurt feelings will dissipate. The memories you have with your baby, however, will last a lifetime. Consider the following strategies when deciding on how you will handle visitors after your baby is born.
The Sacred First Week
Visitors are welcome to stop by and see your baby – after you and your partner have had a full week together alone. This would apply to out-of-towners as well as locals. You can decide how you feel about allowing only someone close to you, like your mother or father – see below.
Mothers & Fathers Only
Maybe you only want to open the door for those closest to you and the baby. This might be your mother but not your mother-in-law. Or only your sister. You get to decide the who and when you will open the door for others. Limiting visitors in this way can help assure that you will get the support you need without feeling pressured to entertain or clean house.
Hospital Visitors Only
If you are giving birth in a hospital, this means that you are only accepting visitors in the hospital initially. You get to decide when you will open up your home to guests. It may be after a few days alone, after the sacred first week, or later.
Hotel Guests Only
This means that, yes, you will allow out-of-town guests as long as they stay at a hotel. Or, provide a date at which they are welcome to come and stay – perhaps after the sacred first week or later.
Stop, Drop & Leave
Visitors are welcome to stop in, drop off a meal or needed item, and leave after an hour or less. Reiterate the importance of family bonding time as well as the need for sleep.
Create an online calendar with visiting hours. Let prospective visitors know that you’d love to see them – and here’s your availability for visitors.
If possible, double or triple up on visitors. The more people who can come together to visit, the less frequent the number of separate visits.
How would you like your postpartum time to play out? What will you do to preserve precious time with your baby and new family?