How to Set Boundaries With Your Family and Friends When You Have a Newborn

It’s getting to be that time of year—pumpkins spice lattes, corn mazes, pumpkin patches, sweaters, apple cider, and the dreaded flu.

Autumn and Winter are particularly hard for the parents of newborns because of exposure to germs that don’t circulate as heavily other times of year. How exactly do you tell someone you love that you don’t want them to touch your baby or be around if they have a cough? This is a very difficult conversation to have. It all starts with some early expectations. Outside of that, are some other helpful tips below.

Set Expectations Early

You don’t need to draft up a sixteen page email to set expectations. You can have a brief conversation with your folks that sounds something like this:

“We are so excited for you to meet baby. In preparation, we are asking family and friends to get a few different shots,… if you want to be around the newborn. After the baby is born, we just ask that you wash hands when you come in the house and refrain from kissing our baby until he or she has a stronger immune system. We are very excited to share him/her soon!”

Designate someone that you trust to communicate with family and friends

In the fourth trimester, you will most likely be spending a lot of time in the cycle of feeding, changing diapers, rocking, etc. There’s little extra time. Decide who is going to communicate with relatives and friends, so you’re not spending valuable baby-bonding time sending texts and Facebook messages. Your sister is in town to help you with the newborn? Enlist her help responding to messages and helping you set boundaries. You can even tag team communications.

Set a limit on the length of time a visitor stays

To prevent visits from feeling never-ending and exhausting a newborn’s very limited awake-window, limit visits to being 30 minutes to an hour. Most likely, your visitor will want to hold the baby. They aren’t likely to fold a load of laundry, unload the dishwasher, or prep you a meal. It can be exhausting to watch someone hold your baby, knowing that chores are piling up (especially if you have multiple children!) Before your visitor arrives, communicate that you and baby are only available for X amount of minutes or hours.

Wash hands before holding the newborn and do not kiss the baby

I know, I know—babies are soooooooooo cute. It’s hard to show restraint from kissing those sweet cheeks. Please do, though. A seemingly small cold for adults could lead to a hospital stay for a baby (RSV).

If you cannot resist touching a baby, limit the touch to the top of the baby’s head and feet— parts of the body baby can’t put in his or her mouth. Also, please ask parents first.

Don’t come empty-handed. Come with food.

Some of the best foods a family can eat after they arrive home from the hospital are ones that are easy to reheat, eat with one hand, and will freeze nicely. Some of my favorite meals and snacks to make for people:

  • meatballs

  • a rotisserie chicken already chopped up

  • bacon-covered brussel sprouts

  • bagels and shmear

  • pretzels

  • pre-chopping fruits and veggies.

There really isn’t a bad meal you could bring someone.

How can a postpartum doula help facilitate these visits?

The Modern Doula of Cincinnati is experienced and certified in making sure that you, as a parent, have priority with your new baby. Send MDOC a message on facebook, an email, or a phone call about helping during those visits!