Lactation Consultant and Paediatrician, Christina Smilie, taught me that at times when visitors were banned from coming to hospitals (like during SARS or Swine Flu outbreaks) breastfeeding rates were significantly improved. The most common mistake I see first time parents make in the early weeks is having too many visitors.
Your Only two jobs right now are learning to breastfeed and falling in love.
but most visitors do not have the skills, knowledge or cultural understanding of your needs right now.
Surround yourself only with people who you feel comfortable with seeing you naked, crying and perhaps swearing. You may be thinking, “That is totally my mum!” or, “What on earth am I going to do about my interfering Aunt Sally?” Here are nine tips for getting the most out of your visitors.
1. Make them wait
Even the best kind of visitors can be stressful. Having a new baby is an intensely intimate and private time, and you may like to make all visitors, even grandparents, wait a few weeks before knocking on your door.
2. Use out of the office auto-responders
Often the best way to respond to friendly congratulations by text, email or phone is to set up auto-replies or voicemail messages, something like this;
“Thank you for your congratulations! Mum and baby are doing well. You’ll appreciate we are kind of distracted right now, so it may take us awhile to get back to you. We will be in touch once we are ready for visitors.”
You may even like to add in birth announcement details too.
3. Have a baby blessing
If you are making a lot of visitors wait, you may like to ask your friend, sister or mother to host a baby blessing for you a few weeks after the baby is born. This gets all the excitement over and done with in a couple of hours.
Have it at someone else’s house so you don’t need to cook or clean or wash up afterwards, and you can arrive late and leave early if you need to. You can add the invitation to your auto responders and perhaps include details of your meal registry instead of asking for gifts.
4. Get them to bring food
Whilst we are on the topic of meal registry, I have a new idea for the meaning of the term meal ticket! Bringing a meal for a new mum is a visitor’s ticket to see a new baby. No food, no entry. Unless they feel like doing the dishes or hanging out the washing instead.
5. Have visiting hours
If there are some visitors you are comfortable with, or feel obliged to accept, then you can set up visiting hours like a hospital. Choose a time that works for you, for example when your partner is home from work to make tea and act as a buffer, or in the evening when the older kids are back from school and you know you won’t be able to rest and relax anyway.
Tell your visitors a start time and most importantly a finish time.
A real or white lie reason to ask them leave at the end (for example, a doctors appointment or kids’ bedtime) can help if you are nervous about a particular person overstaying their welcome.
6. Wear your pyjamas
When the inevitable visitors do arrive, answer the door in your pyjamas. Make sure your house looks suitably chaotic. If you really feel like hamming it up, you could still have oil in your hair from your self-massage and a breast popping out of your undone maternity bra. Making your visitors feel awkward gives the message that you are not in a fit state to entertain.
Let them think that you are not coping (even though this actually means you are coping beautifully) and desperately need your precious rest and privacy.
7. Let your man be your protector
The feminist in me feels ever so slightly uncomfortable suggesting this one to you. But, sometimes we've gotta play the game!
A protective mother is often perceived as controlling and up-tight. A protective father is often perceived as cute and sweet.
Let your man play bad cop and put him in charge of social arrangements for the time being. He answers the phone, negotiates visiting times and plays host. Set up secret sign language, like when you cough your partner knows it's time to shoo away the visitors.
8. Don’t be nice – be a lioness
Many people have an instinct to care for a baby, even if it’s not their own. It’s that urge you have when you hear a baby crying in a pram and you just want to race over and pick it up. Most people control this instinct, but some visitors can’t help offering advice or even resorting to ‘stealing’ your baby.
This is a really primitive, animal instinct, so you need to respond in a really primitive, animal way.
Be a lioness and steal your baby right back.
If your visitors start interfering with your baby or parenting choices, don’t be shy! Let your inner lioness roar. As much as visitors want to cuddle, your baby needs you most, and everyone else would be more useful if they brought food or groceries and left you and your baby alone in bed whilst they mopped the floor.
No one else has the right to hold your baby, I can't emphasise this enough, so I will say it again:
your baby is your baby!!
9. Visit them instead
If a certain visitor keeps overstaying their welcome despite your best efforts, offer to visit them instead of having them visit you. That way you can leave after an hour or even less!
That’s all for now. If you have a visitor who is behaving like more of a baby than your newborn, do whatever it takes to protect yourself from them. You can make amends in a few months. But, for now your only two jobs are breastfeeding and falling in love.