How to Set Boundaries On Visitors (Without Sounding Ungrateful)

Welcome door sign

When you have a baby, visitors can be a blessing or a curse. Here are some ideas on how to set boundaries around visitors during the time when your needs are just as high as your baby's. This is an area where your partner or support person is vital in enforcing your agreed rules - healing post-birth, feeding a baby and maintaining any kind of adult conversation is hard enough without having to get up the courage to tell your mother-in-law it's getting late and time to leave.

  1. Set up a time for visitors. Hospitals have visiting hours, and you are welcome to set similar rules according to how your family rolls. Evening visits, for example, may be perfect for some families and disastrous for others. By setting your own "visiting hours" you can also help prevent those well-meaning (or not) "popper-inners" you're not totally comfortable having see you in your pyjamas. To keep it fair, all visitors, including your own family, are subject to the same rules unless you and your partner/support person decide otherwise.

  2. Keep it to one to two groups of visitors each day. Everyone loves meeting the new baby, but having the infant passed around and ogled by a stream of visitors may be at odds to your needs. Limiting groups of visitors may help you to get more rest and learn this baby's individual unspoken (body language) requests for milk, sleep or to tone down the stimulation. Bonding hormones also rely on scent and touch as well as sight, so parental body contact with baby is key to feeling loved up. This is especially important for the non-birth parent, who doesn't get the hours of breastfeeding cuddles the mother might, and will likely to return to work before too long.

  3. Organise a helper roster. Select a few people who you know will lend a hand without expecting anything from you in return. These should be people that you are comfortable being vulnerable emotionally in front of, and who will listen to your concerns without trying to jump in and offer a "fix". Identify when they have one to two hours available each week and ask them to come over at that time for a designated period of time (e.g. every Wednesday between 9.30am and 11am for the first three weeks after your partner/support person returns to work).

  4. Use visuals to cue people. A couple of signs on the door do wonders to remind people that they may be your guests, but you are in no position to "host" as you might previously have done. I recommend some version of a "do not knock" sign to help respect your need to sleep, a "welcome" sign encouraging short visits  rather than long-lunches, and a "this is how you can help" kind of sign. You can grab the high res, printable versions of the ones below for free here.

SSSHHHH door sign.pngWelcome door sign.pngThank God You're Here.png


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