There’s something about a brand-new baby that can make people go a little nuts (it’s almost as if they’re really adorable and cuddly or something). Don’t get us wrong...you worked your butt off to bring that cutie into the world and absolutely deserve to show them off. But it’s also important that you feel 100% comfortable with the overall tone of your postpartum recovery space, and that includes who you let into it, for exactly how long, and what they’re allowed to do.
Your relatives and friends love the crap outta you and odds are they want to be helpful and supportive, but they might need some help getting there. So now is a great time to lay down some ground rules for any well-meaning postpartum company.
Mama Pro Tip → Feel free to break any and all of the below rules if you want to...it’s your postpartum! Just make sure that both you and your partner are on the same page with whatever you decide, since they can run interference and enforce your agreed-upon regulations if need be.
Mama Tired → Literally your only job after birthing a human being is to relax and bond. You’ve just done some of the hardest work of your life, you’re probably sleep-deprived, and your internal organs are rearranging themselves. Your butt should not have to leave your couch for any reason.
The Hostess with the LEASTest → Along the same lines, it’s not your responsibility to entertain, serve, or otherwise host any guests. Maybe tell them which cabinet the snacks are in, but that’s it (and then make sure they bring you one).
In the Nude → If you’re planning to breastfeed, you’re probably gonna spend a lot of time topless...frankly it’s just easier than hauling your boobs out every 30 minutes for a hungry baby. If your guests are squeamish or if you are uncomfortable with an audience, tell them to stay home...or at the very least throw on your Cocoon for coverage without the hassle.
Mom Mom Nom Nom → ‘member when we said visitors should bring you a snack? We’ll revise that to say that every single person who comes over should either bring a meal, pick up some groceries, or offer to make you something to eat while they’re there. Feed the mama. Always.
Take the Lead → You are the final word when it comes to off-limits conversational subject matter. If your friends / fam start to veer into territory you aren’t happy about, nip it in the bud (or have your partner or postpartum doula intervene on your behalf). Comments or questions that may be well-intended can feel judgmental or intrusive if you’re not up for discussing a difficult birth story or explaining how breastfeeding is going, and unsolicited advice can just be outright unhelpful (more on that later).
Self Care Is Not Selfish → Along with “relax & bond,” your other main priority is self-care. Making the time to refill your mama tank may make the difference between a depleted and overwhelming postpartum and a loving, supported one (no joke; it’s that important). Have your guests make themselves useful by drawing you a bath with yummy-smelling salts, bringing you a mug of lactation tea and a plate of cookies, rubbing your feet, or otherwise pampering you.
Lips are Sealed → Unless you are explicitly ok with this, don’t let visitors kiss the baby. Babies have practically no immune systems for the first three months of their lives, and adult germs can cause problems. Add onto this that no one should visit if they are feeling sick, and it might also be wise to avoid younger visitors (i.e. cousins or kiddos of friends) since they can be little germ factories as well.
Stranger Danger → The answer to “can I hold the baby?” can absolutely be NO. The only person who decides who gets to hold the baby is the mama. Even if Gramma has flown halfway across the country to see her precious grandbaby and is actually physically wriggling with anticipation / dropping unsubtle hints all over the place / crowding your personal bubble on the sofa (yes, this is based on a true story)...the answer can still be no. Gramma can chill.
Mama Pro Tip → Need some ideas on how to politely shut down grabby relatives? Try: “I love that you are so excited to hold the baby, and you will soon, but right now I feel more comfortable keeping them with me because of their sensitive immune system / cluster feeding / bonding needs / fill-in-the-blank” or “Someday soon I know I will appreciate a break, but right now baby and I are happiest together!”
Cleanliness is Next To...Well, You Know → Anyone who comes into your home should immediately head to the nearest sink and wash their hands. Soap, hot water, 20 seconds, scrubba-dub-dub. And if they blow their nose or cough into their hand or otherwise dirty themselves? Lather, rinse, repeat.
Lips are Sealed Pt. 2 → Did anyone besides you go through all of pregnancy and labor, and push an eight-ish pounder out of their hoo-ha? No? Cool...then they don’t get a say-so in how you are raising your babe. Unless you specifically ask, you shouldn’t have to listen to opinions or advice on sleep training, comfort nursing, babywearing, pacifier use, etc. etc.
For Your Home
Kick Up Your Heels → Have your visitors take their shoes off at the door. Yes, it’s important for babe to build a strong immune system, but let’s not overwhelm them with lots of grody outside germs right away. Plus you have enough to worry about without adding extra vacuuming and mopping to your to-do list.
Feed Me and Leave → Did a friend or doula organize a meal train for you? Awesome! Leave a cooler on your porch with a nicely worded sign asking people to drop food deliveries off in the cooler and respect your family’s bonding time. Prepared meals are lovely...unanticipated daily houseguests are not.
Knock-Knock Jokes → Since you’re already making a sign for your meal delivery, make another to stick on your door for would-be visitors, delivery drivers, and mailpeople asking them to please not knock or ring the doorbell. You may have a napping baby (or YOU may be napping), and these intrusions can be really disruptive. Anyone coming over right now should have your partner’s cell number anyway, so they can text when they’re planning to visit or when they arrive to make sure it’s a good time.
Honey-Do Lists → Your loved ones probably DO want to help out when they visit, but they don’t know how to be most useful. Avoid them coming to you with constant questions by posting a chore list on your fridge. Update as needed!
Read the Room → It’s ultimately your call how long you feel like having people stay. 5 minutes, 5 hours, 5 seconds...up to you! Or allow ZERO guests, for as long as you darn well feel like it!
Postpartum For the Cautious
Babies have incredibly underdeveloped and delicate immune systems for the first few months of life (and the last thing YOU need is to catch any creeping crud when you're recovering from birth and caring for another human!), so if you want to exercise extra caution or are birthing during a high-risk time like flu season, here are some additional tips you may find useful:
- require mask-wearing for anyone who comes into your home
- if weather conditions permit, opt for outdoor visits to mitigate the risk of germ exposure (bonus: a fresh air porch hangout is good for you and baby, too)
- virtual visitors are a great (and 100% risk-free) option...and is a great way to have out-of-town friends and family say hello anyway!
Remember that you have the best excuse in the world to shun all visitors and stay in your family bubble if that’s what makes you the most comfortable...yes, you may run into some hurt feelings or people who have different views, but your baby, your house, your call. Besides, if you suspect a potential guest will be offended by your rules, then they are probably not a good person to have visiting you postpartum anyway...supportive vibes only!