Visitors or no visitors? Managing friends and family after baby arrives
“I just had my baby 4 days ago and I feel like I haven’t been able to spend alone time with her at all. My family and friends keep calling and stopping by the house without warning. I don’t want to be mean by telling them not to come over, but I really just want time to bond with my baby right now. Is that bad? What should I do?”
If you’re reading this because you’re having a similar problem, let me just start by telling you that you’re not bad. You’re not selfish. You’re also not alone. Far from it.
This is a very common issue facing not just new moms, but moms who have welcomed home little ones several times. It’s natural to feel like you want some alone time with your family. It’s also natural to feel overwhelmed by all of the extra attention being sent your way—even if most of it is directed towards your new family member.
It’s also natural for family, friends, and even close coworkers to feel excited to meet and spend time with your baby. However, as you can imagine, those two sets of desires can clash. You want time alone with your baby. Everyone else wants to spend all of their free time at your house cooing over said baby. So what can you do? How do you manage friends and family after baby arrives... without hurting feelings or burning bridges?
What I strongly recommend is that you put into place a “visitation policy." Ideally, you’ll do this before baby arrives as part of your Postpartum Preparedness Plan. But also understand that you’re never locked in. You might change your mind after baby arrives and that’s OK too.
Be as strict or as lenient in this policy as necessary to preserve your sanity. Here are some guidelines that you may consider. Use what feels right, ignore what doesn’t, and feel free to add any that I have not thought of.
Limited Hospital Visits
When your loved ones find out that you’re in labor (or that you just had the baby), they may rush to the hospital to visit. These visits are often spent marveling over the baby, talking about who the baby looks like, passing the baby around from person to person, and maybe even taking pictures and videos.
While their excitement to love on the baby is expected, it can be overwhelming and tiresome, especially if there is a steady stream of visitors. You might even feel invisible yourself, if everyone is preoccupied with baby and no one even asks you how you’re feeling.
The hours and days after you give birth can be a joy. However, they can also be emotional, stressful, and tiring. You may not want an audience during that time.
So, if you haven’t already given birth, I would gently (yet firmly) let people know that you only want a few people to visit you at the hospital. I’ve even had clients share with me they did not want anyone to visit until after they arrived home or for so many days after delivery.
You may want to limit that list to parents, siblings, and best friends. Or you could have an even smaller list. It’s totally up to you. What’s important is that you’re able to bond with your child and heal from the delivery process. There will be plenty of time for people to meet your baby later.
Delayed home visits
Once you’re released from the hospital, it’s time to head home and establish your new “normal”. Bringing a baby home often means you have to develop a brand new routine for how you do things. Depending on the circumstances surrounding your labor (for example, if the baby came earlier than expected), you may also have to rush around to get your home ready for the baby.
You and your partner need time to adjust. If you have any other children, they also need time to bond with their new baby brother or sister.
In other words, you don’t need to worry about entertaining a constant stream of visitors as soon as you start getting settled in. This shouldn’t be your job at this time. Or really any time in the next couple of months.
It may be a good idea to let your loved ones know that you would like to delay any home visits until later. You could give them a specific date or you could just let them know that you will announce when your family is ready to have people come over to spend time with the baby.
Now, if you decide that you’re needing help--maybe breastfeeding is harder than you expected or you just can’t get any sleep or you’re just feeling like your life is suddenly unrecognizable--then you should absolutely break your No Visitors rule and invite a friend or family member over to help.
The key thing to remember is that you get to decide what you need.
No surprise visits
Once you’re ready to start having people stop by your house to meet the baby, it can still be really helpful to have some rules in place.
One rule I like to suggest is that people need to call or text you first to find out if you’re up for a visit and what time they can come by.
I think all parents know how irritating it can be to finally have some time to relax, only to have some knock on the door or ring the doorbell. And we all know the internal (and sometimes audible) screams associated with someone knocking on the door as soon as you’ve gotten your baby to finally go to sleep.
Avoid all of the stress by telling people ahead of time about your “Call First” policy. Let them know that this will ensure that their visit goes smoothly as you will have time to get your home, your family, and yourself ready for the visit rather than rushing around, being caught in the middle of an awkward moment, or having to ask them to leave.
One caveat that you may want to include in the “Call First” policy is that they give you advance warning.
It defeats the purpose of the policy if they call you saying “Hey, we’re down the street from your house and want to see the baby. Is now a good time to come by?" Not only does that not give you enough time to prepare (mentally or otherwise), it may also make you feel obligated to say yes. For some of us moms (or for ALL of us moms depending on the visitor!), this can really kick our anxiety into gear.
Let people know that you need a certain amount of notice before they want to visit. For some people, this may be just a few hours. For others, it may be a few days. Do what is best for you and your family.
Only Approved Extended Visits
If you have family that is used to being highly involved or family who live far away (and, thus, can’t visit as often as they would like), you may find yourself having to navigate a related (yet more involved) situation: having extended guests.
They may stop by one day, saying that they only want to stay for a few days. Then, next thing you know, it’s been over a week and they still show no signs of leaving. Or, you could have family members announce to you their plans to stay with you for every major holiday from now until your baby is out of diapers.
While it’s sweet that they want to be around so much, it can also be inconvenient and stressful, especially if you didn’t agree to it.
I know this can be a really touchy issue, but it’s important that you be firm about what you want and need to happen.
Let them know that while you would love for them to visit and that you appreciate their desire to be so involved, any final decisions regarding who stays with you (and for how long) is up to you and your partner.
Talk to your partner first to decide:
- who you are open to hosting for an extended period of time
- how long after the baby is born this can start
- how long people can stay
- whether you will host them at your home or ask them to stay at a nearby hotel.
That way, when the discussion arises with loved ones, you will already know what to say.
Having the discussion with your partner also gives you the opportunity to make sure you are both on the same page. You may find that you and your partner have different expectations. It’s best to hash those things out together than be caught off guard in front of others.
No Negativity or Judgment
You are working hard to adjust to either being a new mom OR establishing a new normal for your growing family. The last thing you need are people in your home telling you what you should be doing differently, what they feel you are doing wrong, how they would handle things if they were you, or otherwise barraging you with unsolicited (and not very constructive) advice.
With that in mind, know that you have the right to choose who you let into your home. You do not have to welcome any guests into your home who are negative or who pass judgment on you.
You also don’t need anyone in your home who will judge you for not being perfectly coiffed, for the house being messy, for struggling to cope with the big changes you’re undergoing, or for anything else. If they can’t be understanding and supportive, they don’t need to visit.
If someone comes over and spends the entire time making you feel bad about yourself, it’s okay to let them know that their visit stressed you out. If they can’t agree to be more positive, you are not obligated to allow them to visit again. Don’t feel guilty about that! You put the ball in their court - what they decide to do with it is on them.
- Keep hospital visits to a minimum so you can focus on the baby and healing.
- Let loved ones know if you need a break from visits after the baby is home.
- Implement a “call first” policy for home visits. If you don’t call first, don’t come over.
- Let people know you need advance notice before home visits. No last-minute requests.
- Overnight guests have to be pre-approved by you and your partner.
- No negativity allowed! Unsolicited advice and judgment included.
These are just a few of the visitation guidelines to consider. Enforce the ones that make sense for you and your family, ignore the ones that don’t, and feel free to make amendments or additions as needed.
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