Everyone loves babies. There is nothing quite like the innocence and purity of a brand new baby, so it’s no wonder that family and friends are so eager to visit in the hospital. I suggest thinking about some guidelines and sharing it with your loved ones before the baby comes to protect those precious first few days you have with your new bundle of joy.
You may feel differently in the moment, so it might be a good idea to set more conservative parameters and ease up once you decide how you feel after the baby arrives.
If you’re a new mom, the idea of visitors in the hospital may sound fantastic- of course you want your five best friends, aunts, uncles, and cousins to visit- they are so important to you, so why wouldn’t you want them there? Below you’ll find some things for you to consider as well as guidelines for visitors regarding visiting a mom and new baby in the hospital etiquette.
Visiting a New Mom in the Hospital Etiquette
For mom to consider
- Your emotional needs: while having visitors may sound great at the time, you may want some time alone with your new family. Time goes so quickly once you have a baby, and you’ll never get those 100% new baby moments back. You may feel all kinds of emotions as your hormones adjust to your postpartum body, things you never thought you’d feel. Be sure to keep your emotional needs as a priority for your own health and happiness.
- Your physical needs: after delivery, you will be quite sore and uncomfortable. Sitting up or waddling to the washroom will feel like a huge accomplishment. You may experience pain and discomfort from head to toe- headaches, full body/muscle soreness, fatigue, and hunger. Meeting your physical needs is a huge priority because you need all the will and energy you can find to take care of your baby. Oh, did I mention mom will be completely exhausted? I didn’t sleep for days prior to my daughter’s birth, and labor takes up all of your energy!
- Feeding your baby: whether you plan to nurse or bottle feed, feeding your newborn will be your full-time job. If you are nursing, there is no such thing as a newborn feeding schedule- you cannot plan when your baby wants to eat around your visitors’ schedules. Even if you just fed your baby and told guests to come, by the time they arrive, you may need to feed again. While I love nursing now, it was not beautiful and magical at the beginning; give yourself some time and space with your baby to figure things out. If you plan to nurse, check out 8 Things Not To Say To A Nursing Momma.
- How you look: readers, you can criticize me and say vanity should be the last thing on your mind after you had a baby, but hear me out. While there are much more pressing issues than what you look like postpartum, and while your guests may not be focusing on you, YOU may care how you look and feel. I wasn’t comfortable seeing many people right after I had my daughter, and the last thing I wanted to do was keep makeup on at all times in case I had visitors.
- Have an advocate: you may feel uncomfortable turning down your loved ones and might not have the energy to do so. Have someone who can advocate for your needs, which may change hour to hour! Whether it’s your partner, best friend, or parent, let this person be your spokesperson and let family and friends know when they can visit.
- Gifts at the hospital: you have a lot to bring home- your luggage, bags of hospital ‘goodies,’ paperwork…oh, and a new person! You may not want to deal with accounting for more stuff to bring home, even if it’s thoughtful, generous presents. Flowers are especially difficult to transport from the hospital to home, so if you know someone is planning on bringing a gift, ask if they can bring it to your home instead. Make sure you don’t miss out anything in your hospital bag with my Hospital Bag Checklist.
- Have a timeframe in mind: many guests who have had babies will not overstay their visit because they know what you are going through. However, it is a good idea for you (or better yet, your advocate) to let visitors know it may be a short visit depending on how mom and baby are doing. Who knows? Maybe you want your guests to stay longer than expected, but having a conservative timeframe may be best to start.
Guidelines for Visitors
- Don’t expect to hold the baby: gasp, did she really just say that??! I know what you’re thinking. The whole reason I came to see the baby was to hold her! Remember, this is mom and dad’s first time with their new baby, and they need to bond first and foremost. A mom may not feel comfortable having someone else hold their new little angel but might feel awkward saying no. Wait to see if the parents offer for you to hold the baby.
- Wash your hands: even if you just washed your hands and you know you are clean, put the parents at ease and wash your hands right away.
- Call ahead: even if you had a time scheduled to visit, call ahead just to make sure it’s still a good time and to give the parents a heads up that you’re on your way. Mom, dad, and baby have a lot of new things going on, so they might not be able to keep track of their visitors’ schedules.
- Bring food: I was going to make this title “Offer to bring food” but quickly changed it. If you offer and mom and dad say no to food, they don’t want to put you out. They are hungry! Mom has been eating hospital food and dad has been either paying for hospital food or eating whatever fast food is near the hospital. They want food. Bring it.
- Don’t drop by unannounced: while you may have the best intentions for a surprise visit, do not drop by on a whim. The baby may be out of the room for tests, mom might be nursing or being examined, or the family may need to bond and nap. There are also hospital guidelines for visitors that you need to be mindful of.
- Don’t bring extra guests: if you are invited, do not assume that means bring your mom, husband, and two kids.
- Be positive and complimentary: there are many things you can say with the best intentions that may be taken the wrong way. Mom especially is dealing with a lot of physical and emotional changes, so be aware of that- she also will not look herself. I still looked 6 months pregnant and was extremely puffy and swollen, but there’s nothing I could do about that. Tell the mom she did an incredible job, that the baby is adorable, and all those nice things.
- Don’t point out flaws: we imagined babies to look like perfect chubby little cherubs straight from a Gerber advertisement, but the truth is, babies go through incredible trauma in order to enter this world! It’s normal for babies to appear furry, have acne-looking skin, have dry, scaly skin, and look swollen. They may have birthmarks, misshapen ears, or squished faces. This is normal! Please do not point out anything other than how completely perfect the baby is.
- Don’t use the personal washroom: except to wash your hands. If you have to use the restroom, use the facilities on the hospital floor, not in the mom’s personal room.
- Don’t question parent choices: if the mom is breastfeeding, don’t tell her bottle feeding is easier; if the mom is bottle feeding, don’t preach about breastfeeding. If you are anti-epidural, do not lecture about how un-medicated birth is best; if the mom had a c-section, do not tell her the glories of your natural birth. Now is not the time to question the parents’ choices, and in fact, it’s never really the time.
What do you think guests should know about visiting mom and baby in the hospital? How did you feel about visitors?