New Parents and Setting Rules for Visitors
By Amy Zehnder, MD, OB Labor and Delivery Hospitalist—Virtua Voorhees Hospital
The first days, weeks and months after the arrival of a newborn can be joyful and exciting for new parents. It also can be challenging and exhausting as mom begins to heal after the birth and the new family adjusts to the demands and routines associated with newborn care.
As a result, many new parents find it difficult to strike the right balance between their need for rest and family bonding time and visits from well-meaning friends and relatives. However, with a little planning, honesty and understanding from all involved parties, it’s possible to find your family’s baby-visitation sweet spot. Here are a few tips that can help you reduce stress, avoid conflict and get the rest you need.
Welcoming a newborn is a unique and personal experience for each family. However, that experience also involves a lot of work in the form of diaper changes, laundry, feedings and sleepless nights. And whether it’s the family’s first child or their fourth, it is normal for everyone in the household to go through a period of adjustment.
One of the most important things new parents can do to avoid visitor-related drama is to set firm boundaries well in advance of their baby’s birth. You and your partner should decide what days and times of day are OK for visitors and agree on other ground rules that you would like visitors to follow. Many families set visitation boundaries that include:
- Calling before coming over
- Giving several hours’ notice before visiting
- Limiting the length of visits to one hour
- Not bringing children along
- Not visiting during your meal times (or your baby’s)
It’s important to note that every family needs different boundaries to help them feel comfortable. While one family may welcome extended, multiple-day visits from helpful out-of-town grandparents, other families may feel more comfortable with a temporary “no visitors after birth” policy.
Your decision about restricting visitors after birth (or not) should be based on what feels right to you—and you should not feel obligated to adopt the same boundaries as your neighbors, friends or relatives.
Communication is key to establishing boundaries for visiting your newborn, but it requires a little finesse. When the subject of visitation comes up, be sure to make your wishes clear delicately but firmly. Although it might make you feel uncomfortable, you’ll likely find that most people will be understanding and willing to give you the space you need.
Use your veto power
It’s normal to experience joy, stress, excitement, fatigue, worry and frustration in the early weeks and months of parenting—and it’s also normal for a bad day to sneak up on you when you least expect it.
As a new parent, you need to prioritize your well-being, as well as the well-being of your newborn and the rest of your household. If you aren’t feeling up to a visit from a friend or relative, don’t be afraid to decline or cancel—even if it’s nearly at the last minute.
Let go of pre-baby expectations
Many new parents restrict visitors shortly after birth because they believe that visitors expect them to maintain pre-baby household and hosting standards. The truth is that visitors are coming to see you and your new baby because they care—and they’ll understand if you don’t have time to cook a meal, take a shower, fold your laundry or vacuum the carpets.
If you’re feeling anxious about having visitors, it might be a good idea to ask yourself if any of your feelings are related to pre-baby expectations about the condition of your home, your appearance or other related worries. If so, try to look at things from the caring perspective of a friend or relative and see if that reduces your visitor-related concerns. You can rest assured that your family and friends will understand that you have just been through a major, life-changing family event and will probably be willing to lend a hand if you need it.
When new parents set boundaries and communicate about how they want to handle visitors after their baby’s birth, everyone benefits. Creating the environment that you and your family need in the weeks and months following your baby’s birth can go a long way toward a healthy, happy household.
Learn more about taking care of yourself after having your baby. Or, check out a class or support group that can help you enjoy your newborn in the days and weeks after birth.
Updated January 14, 2020