Provided by A Mother’s Perspective Doula Services
You have a new baby and everyone’s excited. But for the baby’s physical health and your mental health, it’s important to establish some boundaries so that everyone knows what is and is not okay. This is especially important around the holidays, when family may be visiting, or you may be traveling.
WELCOMING FRIENDS AND FAMILY INTO YOUR HOME
Whether you have a newborn or a toddler (or both!) you’ve probably had a hard time keeping it all together at home. Managing family and household duties can be hard enough week-to-week but can be even more difficult during the holiday season when added pressures mount.
Here are some tips for welcoming friends and family into your home:
Communicate your needs and expectations. If you’ve just had a baby, everyone in your life wants to meet—and hold—her. If you’re not comfortable with this (for whatever reason!) express your concerns before family and friends come knocking. It might be that you don’t want small children holding your little one, that you don’t want baby to be overstimulated, or that you want to keep baby away from germs. Whatever your reasons, please know that your concerns are valid. By communicating them early on, everyone can know what to expect.
Respect your baby’s schedule. Whether or not you have a tried-and-true schedule yet, your baby likely has some eat-sleep-wake rhythms that she has established. When friends and family come, resist the urge to keep baby up for the party. Put her down and away, and enjoy your time with your friends.
Respect your need for rest. New parents need rest too, so respect your body by not overcommitting or over-scheduling yourself. You can go to the party, host the breakfast, and make four different kinds of cookies next year.
Lean on expert advice. Chances are, you’ve spent a lot of time recently educating yourself about newborn care. Your family probably hasn’t. So, if you feel the need to decline an offer to visit in order to protect your baby, let your friends and family know that it’s not about them, or you, it’s about baby. You might do this by reminding them about a newborn baby’s delicate immune system. Or begin a sentence saying, “our pediatrician or midwife says…” Remind them that medical experts recommend limiting baby’s exposure to the outside world for the first several months of life. And, like it or not, visitors are the outside world.
TRAVELING WITH BABY
First, you should know that it’s okay not to travel. Even if, every year, you make a 1,000-mile trek to see family, everything’s different once you’ve had a baby. Your friends and family should understand that. If they don’t, give them your reasons for wanting to stay put. Your desires are valid and should be enough.
If you decide to travel, keep baby warm and comfortable as much as possible when in public. And be aware that their little immune systems aren’t yet aware of the big wide world, so take precautions to keep them safe. Politely ask that strangers keep their distance. You may even pin a DO NOT TOUCH sign on your car seat or travel system. These car seat covers that say I’m Cute and Cuddly But Please Don’t Reach in and Touch Little Me are the ultimate in baby boundary-drawing.
VISITING FAMILY, FRIENDS, AND IN-LAWS
Whether traveling a long distance or visiting family and friends the next town over, you can make the visit easier on the entire family by following much of the above advice. You can also:
Bring along creature comforts. Keep your baby happy and comfortable by creating a home-away-from-home. You can do this by bringing along the Pack n’ Play, sleep sacks and swaddles, white noise machine, and favorite toys.
Ask for a quiet space for you and baby to rest. This is best done before arrival. Let them know that baby has a nap schedule and that everyone will be happier if she gets to keep it. Once you arrive, take baby’s creature comforts to the designated area, and set up her home-away-from-home.
Ask for help. Chances are, your parents and in-laws want nothing more than quiet time with baby. So don’t feel like you have to go it alone. Invite your father-in-law to rock baby to sleep, or ask your mother to take over bathing and changing while you yourself take a nap. Grandparents and other family members are usually eager to help out—and it often takes a village to raise a little one, so accept help when appropriate.
REMEMBER, IT’S OKAY TO SAY NO, STAY IN, AND TAKE CARE OF YOURSELF
This is your permission to say no. Stay in! Take care of yourselves! You just welcomed a new human being into your lives. That takes some time to get used to. Sometimes the biggest and most important boundary your family can draw is the circle you draw around yourselves.
WHAT ABOUT YOU?
We’d love to know if you’ve felt challenged with setting boundaries, and please share if you have suggestions you’d add to this post. Share in the comments below!