You and your baby are both going through tremendous changes during the postpartum period (often referred to as the fourth trimester). First baby or tenth baby it doesn't matter! There is still an adjustment that comes along with having a new baby. You are exhausted, sore and your hormones are fluctuating causing your mood to go up and down (at the drop of a hat!).
I have become firm with postpartum boundaries in my own life. My boundaries are nothing crazy, my guests don't have to come with gifts of frankincense and myrrh (although I wouldn't turn my nose up at a nourishing meal I didn't have to cook). These boundaries are for baby's wellbeing as well as my own. These are my own personal set of "rules."
1. I will not be a good host:
Typically when I have guests I go out of my way to ensure they feel at home. I offer them a drink and a comfortable place to sit. Often times I cook or offer a snack. I LOVE doing these things for guests. I love hosting and taking care of people. One of my only exceptions to being a good host is when I've just had a baby. Nope. Hard pass. It takes your body at least a full six weeks to recover physically (often even longer) from childbirth. You are literally in the process of healing an internal open wound. Even if you are feeling great after a few days or weeks, your body isn't 100% percent. You are under no obligation to serve your guests anything, especially in those first two weeks. Even your partner has his hands full during this time and is experiencing his own postpartum time. I expect my guests to be able get themselves a drink or a snack if they desire it and I expect them to clean up after themselves as well!
2. I have the final say on who's allowed over and when:
I actually enjoy having guests over during the postpartum period. Having a new baby can be so isolating. You aren't up for a lot of outings and you are often up nursing a baby in a quiet house at all hours of the night. Social interaction with somebody that doesn't poop their pants after every meal is such a blessing! It's also exhausting both physically and mentally. You have to wear clothes and stay awake when you have guests over. That's a lot to ask in the first two weeks when you are often shirtless, covered in breastmilk and wanting to sleep any chance you get.
I only allow my closest friends and family to come visit in those first two weeks. I don't want to waste what little energy I have on forced social interactions. The people I love the most have no expectation of engaging conversation and don't mind the smell of old breastmilk and spit up coming off of me. They don't even care that I have sink full of dishes and piles of laundry. These are the people that never come over empty handed. They come with a prepared meal and helping heart. Before they leave its a safe bet that my dishes will be clean and my laundry folded. These are the people I want nearby during this time. They mean the world to me (you know who you are).
3. I ask all visits to be kept short
The first two weeks are vital for bonding with your new family. You and your partner need to get to know this sweet little life and your older children need to see that they are still loved during this time. Your entire family is learning to adjust to everything. Having guests come over too frequently and for too long of a time can really interrupt this vital process.
It's always been important to me to set a 30 minute limit on visitors in those first two weeks. This time limit even applies to family (parents and siblings). In addition to bonding with my new family I am exhausted and literally do not have the energy or desire to sit up, fully clothed for very long. I want to lay in bed, skin to skin with my new baby. That's really hard to do with company!
4. Getting to hold my baby is a privilege, not a right.
This brand new baby doesn't need to be passed around and held by anybody asking. This baby only needs me right now. We are bonding and establishing breastfeeding. Unless you are my husband or my children don't be surprised if I don't allow you to hold my brand new baby. It's rare that I even let my parents and sisters even hold my baby. I'm not selfish or paranoid. I'm protecting this baby's health as well as our bond. Period. I owe you nothing.
This is such a tough one. Everybody wants to hold the brand new baby. I literally want to hold every brand new baby I encounter but I would never ask or expect it! Even in my role as a doula and photographer I still never ask. It's a rare treat and an incredible blessing when I'm asked to hold a fresh baby for even a second! Don't be afraid to hog your baby, especially in those vital first weeks!
5. My guests are never empty handed.
I do expect my guests to bring over a meal or offer to help a little around the house in those first two weeks. I would even be happy if they offered to pick up a grocery order on the way over (that I prepaid for of course). This may sound to some of you like bad etiquette but I don't see it that way. You already have so much on your plate during this time that even a welcomed guest can feel overwhelming! I cringe anytime I hear of someone (typically a grandparent unfortunately) offering to hold the baby so mom can get some work done. Um, no thanks. That's not helpful. At all. I would rather let my chores pile up than risk missing out on important, necessary bonding with my new baby.
6. I don't care if its "just allergies" keep your germs away!
I let my children play in dirt and follow the 5 second rule without blinking an eye. I am a big believer in the power of building up a healthy immune system. Hand sanitizer is rarely used in my home and my children aren't expected to constantly wash their hands. Germs usually don't scare me much!
When it comes to my brand new baby though, you bet I'm going to be a lot more cautious. While my six year old is able to fight off germs and illness my brand new baby isn't. Guests are expected to wash their hands before being allowed to touch my new baby. Strangers are NEVER allowed to touch my baby. Period. I have no problem body blocking an elderly handsy women in order to keep my baby safe. If a guest were to ever show up looking even remotely sick they won't even make it through the front door. I don't care if they swear that its just allergies. This is just basic respect. Never feel guilty for keeping your baby healthy, even if you step on a few toes! I would rather stomp all the toes than loose my baby to RSV or the flu.
That's it. Those are my 6 most basic boundary expectation for the postpartum period. It's nothing crazy or over the top. Don't be afraid to enforce some boundaries of your own. It's okay to put yourself, your baby and your family above everything else, especially during this time of intense change. You won't regret having boundaries but you may regret not having them. Most of these are simple and common sense to most people. Perhaps you have a few loved ones that are totally oblivious and need the guidance though!
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