As I approach my due date, I thought it would be a good time to do a post on having visitors after a new baby. Over the past few weeks, I’ve asked several of my friends (with all different birth stories and experiences) how they feel about visitors and what their personal boundaries are. I was really surprised by my friends responses! I assumed everyone felt the same way as I do about things, and it was interesting how many different preferences there were when it came to visitors.
I wanted to be fair, so I asked 3 of my friends their opinions, and will share theirs along with my own (so 4 opinions total). I think this was a great learning experience for myself, because I sort of assumed each of my friends needs and desires were the same as mine. Given the variety of personalities God has created, I think it’s always safe to say – when visiting a mom with a new baby, always ask her preference on things – and don’t be offended if her answer isn’t what you had hoped or expected!
Here are some of the topics discussed (not each topic was discussed with each friend, but was discussed with at least 2-3 of the friends):
Visiting baby in hospital.
For mom’s that had a home birth or a birth center birth, this doesn’t apply. But for mom’s that had a hospital birth, this one is about 50/50. One mom said she’d rather not feel as much like hosting visitors once home, while another said she didn’t want to see many people at all so that she could just focus on bonding and connecting with her baby and not having to constantly ‘share’ her baby. Perhaps when asking to visit, politely ask if the mom prefers a hospital or home visit.
Length of visits.
Pretty much each friend was on the same page with this one. Keep visits short and quiet, and be alright with mom and baby leaving the room if they just need sleep or need privacy to nurse. Be sure to have scheduled the visit beforehand, and be respectful if the mom (or dad) has requested an end time to the visit.
Offering to help.
With this one, I think 3 out of the 4 said they’d prefer to hold and cuddle their baby while someone folded a basket of laundry or did some dishes. 1 out of the 4 said she’d occasionally prefer to have someone hold her baby so that she could take a quick shower etc. Most moms said that they got tons of offers from others to hold their baby so that they could take a nap or shower, when all they really wanted was to snuggle and bond with their baby while someone else quietly chiseled away at some housework. I think it’s very important to offer BOTH options to the mom and not just one. Everyone loves to cuddle a newborn, but it’s important to respect (and not resent) the mother’s wishes and her and her baby’s need for bonding time.
While I think all of us moms realize that this is the main reason visitors come, a lot of moms have had bad experiences in this area. Most say they really prefer visitors to wash their hands first (one mom didn’t care about this) but most moms also felt a bit timid to ask the visitors to please wash their hands. I think it’s probably safe to wash your hands regardless.
Moms have also had anxiety over the length of time visitors hold their baby. Please understand that a brand new mom has a flood of hormones and her emotions are all over the place. She often feels the most calm when having her baby in her own arms, so please be aware of the length of time you hold her baby. All of my mom friends have more than one child, and one mom said she’d even enjoy having certain visitors play a bit with her older children while she got some special time with the new baby. Again – this goes along with asking what the mom prefers – does she prefer some light housework, a nap or shower, or a some special time with her baby while you play with an older child? If offering to clean or play with older kids – still keep the visits short and sweet.
Please – never think it’s alright to kiss someones baby! Or at least ask permission first if you are family or very close. However, each mom I talked to about this agreed hands down – please just no kissing on our babies, no matter how close you might be. Please protect our little ones who are so very new to the world and fragile.
If visiting as a family with your husband, be especially sensitive to time. New moms often are going through a lot of recovery and might have leaky breasts or be uncomfortable in general being around men. I definitely don’t put a bra on if I know I’m only expecting a female visitor, and I feel like I can be a lot more comfortable.
Hand a crying baby back to Mama!
I thought this one would be more common sense, but after talking with other Mamas – lots have experienced a ton of people continue to hold their baby while he/she would gradually get more and more worked up. I realized that maybe a lot of people truly don’t think about it. Maybe they think, oh I’ll give mom a break – or maybe they just don’t want to give baby up and are determined to calm the baby down themselves. But please, please, hand the crying baby back to his or her Mama so they can calm down. I can actually remember times where it took forever to get my baby to calm down after someone left because she got to a level of being so upset that she just couldn’t calm even after being handed back to e. It broke my heart, but I had a lot of trouble speaking up as a new mom. If the mom is stressed or at a breaking point and NEEDS you to do this, that’s one thing, but always ask or start walking towards mom when her baby starts getting worked up.
Another tip – try to remember not to wear any strong lotions or perfumes. For most of us natural minded moms – we don’t wear it ourselves because of ingredients that we are bothered by, so try to respect the mom’s lifestyle, and her desire to keep certain things like strong perfumes away from her baby.
Always come with food.
I don’t think I need to explain this one any further! 🙂 A meal is always helpful to a new mom! Just make sure no one in the family has any allergies or other special diets. Also – sometimes just dropping a meal off and not expecting to stay and visit is nice sometimes too, especially during the first weeks.
These are the basics of what we discussed on our feelings towards visitors. If YOU’RE the new mom – don’t be afraid to speak up! Set boundaries. Husband’s are great at making sure the boundaries are not broken, and can be the ‘bad guys’ and ask friends and family to leave if need be. Make sure you’re taking care of your family and your own needs first. Visitors shouldn’t be a source of stress. Have as many or as few as you like! Don’t be afraid to tell them to wait a week or two if you need extra time alone as a family. Trust that your friends and family will all understand.
Please know if you’re a visitor (whether friend or family) – mom’s are thankful for you and need your support! We just might each need completely different things from you. We may need a shoulder to cry on from the exhaustion we are feeling. We may need to sleep while you clean something in our house. We may need you to rock our baby to sleep or we may need you to play with an older child. We may just need you to sit quietly beside us as we hold our precious new baby, that we are soaking in and completely in awe of.
What are some of your personal experiences and tips for visitors when it comes to having a new baby?