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There is nothing that anybody could have said to me that would have prepared me for bringing my new baby home. Being pregnant just seemed like a far off, easy dream compared to the realities of giving birth to (read my C-section birth story here and my VBAC story here), feeding and getting my baby to sleep/settle. And on top of that I felt like I still looked 6 months pregnant. Please don’t get me wrong it was of course an incredibly exciting time too. And naturally most of your friends and family will want to join in on that excitement. How you set up boundaries for your visitors can make the first few weeks with your baby easier, or a lot harder. – And of course I found out the hard way! So here are a list of mistakes that some visitors will most likely innocently make and what we learnt to do about them.
MISTAKE 1 – Visiting without asking if it is okay first
With the birth of our first baby we really weren’t prepared for the onslaught of sometimes welcome, sometimes not so welcome visitors we would have hanging on our bell every hour of the day. We were literally exhausted and I was recovering from major surgery the 1st time and some pretty deep tearing the 2nd time (read about the amazing natural pain reliever I used for both births). Honestly there were so many times I wanted to just be left alone. The second time round we made a game plan.
Solution number 1 – Make it clear when you announce the birth to your friends and family that they need to message before visiting
This method will work for most of your visitors, but there are some more determined visitors, so here are a couple of follow up suggestions –
Solution number 2 – Put a sign up on your door
We had a big sign on our front door that said – New baby inside, please don’t knock unless by prior arrangement. Please only contact us by text msg. (We found that messages are a lot easier to deal with than constant phone calls.)
Now you would think that would be enough to deter all unannounced visitors, but apparently it was still a bit too subtle for some people. So to my next point –
Solution number 3 – Send out ‘bulk’ messages to violators
To the few people who still didn’t get the message that it wasn’t okay to just drop in on us we used the ‘bulk message’ tactic. We didn’t want them to get offended by a blunt approach so we sent them a message saying – “We just want to say a big thanks to everyone who has come to visit our new baby and for the present drop offs (we found that some people would think it was okay to visit if it was ‘just dropping off a present’, but then they would end up staying for a long time anyway), it has been much appreciated. We would just like to remind everyone that if you would like to stop by please send us a message first.
We hoped that this didn’t make people feel singled out. We were just sending it to a few specific people, but they didn’t know that. And it got the message across. It worked! Yay.
Mistake 2 – Staying for longer than a brief visit
Did I mention that new Mama’s are exhausted? Newborns feed – A LOT, much more than you could imagine. And they sleep a lot too. When it is time to either feed, or get baby to sleep you don’t want to have a houseful of visitors around, especially if your feeding area is the lounge room (oh yes I made the mistake of not having a private area with a feeding chair set up before my first birth. Result – UNBELIEVABLY AWKWARD WITH VISITORS
Solution number 1 – Set up a gatekeeper
Usually this will be your significant other. I made sure my hubby knew his duties beforehand. He knew I wanted visits to be short and If I gave him the look he knew it was time to politely let the visitors know that their time was up.
Solution number 2 – Send the hanger-oners out on a mission
Do you need ……… (insert anything you can think of here e.g. milk, fruit, bread), ask them to get it. When they return with it just say your thanks at the door without inviting them back in.
Mistake 3 – Visting at meal times, and it gets so awkward that Mama feels like she needs to ask you if you want something to eat too.
I’m actually cringing as I write this because we did have visitors do this to us. It was past tea time, I was starving (as all new Mama’s are), they weren’t taking the please leave hints, like – ‘we really need to get our tea now’, so we ended up preparing food for them too. It was AWKWARD! I’m also cringing that they will read this one day and realise I am writing about them – don’t worry I have forgiven, but clearly I’ve not forgotten!
Now if you have ever had a baby you will know how valuable your store of pre-prepared meals are. I remember hauling around my swollen legs at 8-9 months pregnant, to prepare and freeze healthy food for when the baby comes. It was hard work, but I did it anyway because I knew it was going to be even harder to cook once the baby arrives.
That stash of food is precious!
Solution – Make meal prep time as easy as possible
I really wish looking back that I would have had a system for making meals easy. It was a really hectic time where we would just grab whatever was easiest to eat. This is a time in your life where meals just need to be automated. Using an app like My Freezeasy takes all of the thinking work out of dinner time. Just scroll through and choose 5 meals that appeal to you and select how many people you are cooking for. The app will whip up a shopping list. Then with just one hour of prep work 10 meals are taken care of.
Plus we really needed to refer back to Mistake no 2’s solutions.
Mistake 4 – Visiting a lot of times
It’s funny how giving birth makes some people think that your relationship with them has changed overnight. It’s probably a good rule of thumb to go by that If you only visited once in a blue moon before the baby was born the new parents will not be expecting a lot of visits from you once the baby is born.
Unfortunately the only one we came up to deal with this was frank discussion. There’s just no avoiding it sometimes.
Mistake 5 – Commenting on Mama’s post partum body
I know that some Mama’s seem to snap straight back to their pre-pregnancy shape straight away, but for most Mama’s (me included) it’s a more like a slow crawl getting back in shape (I did learn how to get rid of the Mommy tummy way faster the 2nd time round though). Plus the flood of post-partum hormones can make us a bit more sensitive for a while.
Easy – Zip it!
Mistake 6 – Expecting to hold the baby
In an ideal world the baby will be happy when the visitors come and Mama will be in a frame of mind to share her little wonder. But in reality there were many times in the first few weeks where I just wanted to tell everyone to buzz off. We needed our bonding time as a family and that was more important than a visitor getting their first hold.
Just say sorry, now is not the best time to hand him/her around. Don’t feel like you owe a detailed explanation.
Mistake 7 – Not handing the baby back when he starts crying
Everybody knows how irritating it is listening to a crying baby, but irritating is just not a big enough word for what a Mama experiences when her little one cries. She is the one person on this planet who can comfort her baby the best, don’t try to mess with that!
This is a responsibility divided between you and your significant other. If the person holding the crying baby is a friend, or family member of the Dad it’s his job to get the baby back to Mama immediately, if it’s Mama’s family or friends it’s her job. This was easy for me, I’m close to my family and an “oy, hand him back here” was all it took.
Mistake 8 -Staying when the baby, or Mama is getting stressed
There was nothing worse for me in the first few weeks than when my baby was getting stressed out and our visitors weren’t getting the subtle hints to go. I was using all of my strength to keep myself together for the sake of my baby and my family. I really had nothing left for social graces at the time.
This is where you need that gatekeeper to come back in. Mama’s got enough on her hands. You deal with the visitors.
Mistake 9 – Staying when the baby needs to breastfeed, or Mama needs to express
Breastfeeding is often hard, painful and stressful to start with. My babies both latched on and off, leaving me completely exposed half the time.
Which brings me to one of my most cringe-worthy moments with my first child. I had only been home for a few days and I had a midwife visit me at home. My baby was not feeding well and she wanted to teach me how to express breast milk. There were a couple of visitors there, but unfortunately my hubby wasn’t around. Apparently the visitors had not inferred from the context of the situation that they should leave. My midwife and me were staring at each other in awkward silence, wondering what to do next. Those few seconds dragged on for what seemed like hours, when the not so subtle, exhausted Mama in me just blurted out “Can you please just leave now”.
Please don’t make a Mama utter these words. She really doesn’t want to. Unless she has expressly told you that she is okay with you seeing her naked breasts presume you are not welcome!
Don’t let that gate keeper out of your site for the first few weeks – I’m not joking. Set up grocery deliveries, send visitors on errands, whatever it takes to make sure Mama doesn’t have to face situations like that.
Also back to my mistake 2 – make sure you have a private area set up for feeding.
Mistake 10 – Offering unsolicited advice
Once you are a parent you will find out that nearly everybody you know has an opinion on the correct way to parent/feed/sleep train/etc, etc your child. I even had a male visitor think it was okay to give his advice on the correct way to breastfeed (while I was awkwardly trying to not expose myself in front of him). Yeah …. not sure how I held myself back with this one. I’m sorry, even if he had the best advice in the world it would have been completely lost on me at that moment.
If you are getting advice you don’t care for the best thing to do most of the time is ignore it and change the subject. If you have a serial offender on your hands you might need to find a polite way of saying to them that if you are ever in need of their advice you are more than capable of asking for it.
Just as a side point here I have to say I did seek out and really appreciate advice from mothers and families I respected.
Mistake 11 – Expecting to be served coffee and get waited on
If you come to visit a new Mama chances are she is sitting down awkwardly if she’s had a vaginal birth, or laying back in a painful half-recline if she’s had a c-section. It is taking all of her strength and focus to try to recover and look after her new baby.
Offer to get her a drink/snack. Do not go around to visit when you are hungry, or thirsty. After what she’s been through your craving for mid-morning coffee pales into insignificance.
If you want bonus points here bring around a meal you’ve cooked for the new family and then don’t sit down to share it with them. Extra bonus points are awarded for bringing it in a disposable pot. Mama really doesn’t want to worry about cleaning dishes and remembering whose bakeware is whose at this time in her life.
Mistake 12 – Expecting to get a thank you card in a timely fashion
It took me weeks to get around to making up a thank you card for my first baby, and a couple of months with the second one. This was not for lack of appreciation, I was truly grateful for the outpouring of gifts for my babies.
In those first few weeks/months the new family is literally just trying to survive. If you are a parent already you should be able to relate to this. If you aren’t yet you will just have to take my word for it.
Also the baby brain fog makes it difficult to remember who even brought you presents.
Pile all of the cards that came with the gifts in one spot. When you do eventually get around to writing your thank you cards you will know who to actually send them to.
In conclusion –
This really is the most magical, yet difficult adventure of most new parents lives. Try to put yourself in their shoes, or remember back to your own time with newborns and show a little consideration. It will be most heartily welcome!
Related articles – How I got rid of my Mommy tummy 3x faster the 2nd time round