Setting Rules For When Family Wants To See Your Newborn
Here are some things to consider as you and your partner decide when family and friends can come to meet your little one
You just gave birth; now EVERYONE wants to see the new addition to the family. And that’s not a bad thing: the freshly-minted mom needs the support of her loved ones during this sensitive time, not just dad’s, to avoid postpartum depression (PPD): studies have shown that a lack of social support is linked to increased instances in PPD.
At the same time, though, having too many visitors can have negative effects on your immediate family. A long line of well-wishers can compromise baby’s health and the parents’ ability to bond with the little one.
Although there isn’t a general, one-size-fits-all rule on when to welcome visitors, here are some things to consider as you and your partner decide when family and friends can come to meet your little one.
Why impose rules in the first place?
We’re not saying you need to keep everyone away, but boundaries should be expected. Here are a few reasons why newly-minted parents should have visiting rules:
Keep baby safe. Beyond question, newborns are more susceptible to infections than older children. Freshly unboxed, so to speak, babies possess a poorly-trained immune system, which can’t put up much of a fight against bacteria, viruses, and parasites. The average common cold brought along by the well-intentioned lola, for instance, may send the new baby to the ER with a bad respiratory reaction.
A 2013 study found that the same cells that allow healthy bacteria to colonize babies’ intestines may also suppress their immune system. Limiting visits can ensure that baby’s contact with bacteria doesn’t send them back to the hospital.
Give mom a rest. Mommy’s just been through one of the most traumatizing experiences in her life, which will take her six to eight weeks to mostly recover. (Complete recovery will take months.)
No two moms heal from the experience in the same way: some will bounce back fast, while others will take a while (Caesarian incisions or torn perineums need weeks to months to heal, among others). Some will want only their partners by their side, while others will welcome the support of their loved ones.
Whatever mom wants, mom should get. Any family obligation to meet the new baby should come second to mom’s need to rest from the struggle—and if it means limiting visiting hours, then so be it.
Allow bonding. Contrary to popular belief, parent-to-baby bonding takes time. About 25% and 35% of new parents report not bonding immediately with the new baby; bonding can also be disrupted by parents experiencing burnout, lack of sleep, and postpartum depression.
Giving parents more time to take in each other’s company and the baby’s can generate more breathing room for bonding—and the opposite can happen, if the new parents are forced to host a never-ending stream of well-meaning visitors trying to get their own time with the new addition.
Recommended rules for newborns
To keep baby and your immediate family healthy and sane, here are a few fundamental rules that you can take and adapt to your own circumstances. You can be as strict or as lenient as you like—what matters is that it works for you.
Limit the length of visits. Try keeping visits to one hour or less, during reasonable hours (that depends on you—office hours, like 9am to 6pm, may sound reasonable to most, but others might differ).
Request advance notice. Discourage spontaneous visits; try to have all visitors let you know in advance. If that’s not possible, ask friends or relatives to text or call in advance of any visit.
Set hygiene rules. Implement rules that prioritize baby’s comfort and health—avoidance of strong perfumes, for instance, or insistence on leaving the shoes outside, or washing one’s hands before holding baby. Anyone who has a cold or fever should be asked to wait till they’re better.
Let mom have the final say. For holding the baby, for bringing food, for number of visitors, the mom of the baby should be able to decide these matters. If this is hard to implement (with particularly pushy relatives), find a workaround—for baby-holding, for instance, mom can insist on “wearing” the baby so pushy relatives can’t easily get their hands on the little one.
How to break the rules to family and friends
You’ll have reasons of your own to not impose these rules. Not all family members will take kindly to being limited in their access. Or maybe you may feel guilty about stopping excited lolas from seeing the baby as they please.
You don’t have to be super-strict about imposing rules, but you can also gently set boundaries without offending the most important people in your life.
Express the rules in person. Writing a list can come off as rude and impersonal. It’s better to talk to them and let them know, in as gentle or as off-hand a way as you see fit. This minimises the risk that your family or friends will feel completely unwelcome.
Explain on an as-needed basis. You can wait till the visit itself to request they wash their hands before holding baby. Or ask a sniffling lola to hold off on the kisses muna.
Consider non-escalating language. Using “I” statements and emulating non-escalating body language may help the rules go over better.
Your little one deserves a warm welcome into your family—make sure the introduction is not just happy, but safe as well!
• Birth Issues in Perinatal Care, Commentary: Routines in Maternity Units: Are They Still Appropriate for 2002? 20 December 2001
• BMC Public Health, Prevalence and associated factors of postpartum depression among postpartum mothers in central region, Eritrea, 27 October 2020
• HelpGuide, Nonverbal Communication and Body Language, October 2020
• Johns Hopkins All Children's Hospital, Neonatal Infections, 2021
• PubMed.gov, Postpartum depression. A role for social network and life stress variables, June 1983
• PubMed.gov, Social support, stress, and maternal postpartum depression: A comparison of supportive relationships, 31 August 2015
• ScienceDaily, New explanation for infection susceptibility in newborns, 6 November 2013
• Tony Robbins, How To Use “I-Statements”, 2021
• Upsala Journal of Medical Sciences, Association between depressive symptoms and parental stress among mothers and fathers in early parenthood, 7 March 2016
• What to Expect, Postpartum Recovery Timeline, 10 March 2021
About The Writer
Mike is an experienced travel, technology and lifestyle writer who's been covering Southeast Asia for Tripsavvy since 2007, and contributed to magazines and business websites since the 1990s. Some of his travel work can be found in inflight magazines for Cebu Pacific and TigerAir; his business/tech/finance writing can be found on the sites of his corporate clients from the Philippines, Singapore and Hong Kong.
A dad of a middle schooler, Mike is not afraid to admit he’s just bumbling along the fatherhood track as he goes along.
The views and opinions expressed by the writer are his/her own, and does not state or reflect those of Wyeth Nutrition and its principals.