In an ideal world, every set of new parents would be visited by neighbours who drop off lasagna, loving grandmothers who stay in the background folding laundry and friends who hang around just long enough to tell you the baby is gorgeous and lie about how great you look—“It’s like you were never even pregnant!”
Instead, many of us find ourselves with “helpers” who offer unsolicited advice, linger in the living room where mom is awkwardly trying to nurse, or stay through baby’s nap when you desperately need to sleep yourself.
We asked Angie Evans, a Regina–based doula and prenatal educator, for some tips on navigating the tricky waters of well-meaning visitors who bring headaches instead of help.
Evans recommends sharing some thoughts with grandparents well in advance of the due date: your position on baby’s sleep or feeding, or other matters that could be touchy subjects. For the contrarians in your life, be ready with evidence-based factsheets on breastfeeding or circumcision, for example, to help articulate your opinion and stave off some of the unsolicited advice that’s going to be a lot R harder to take when you’re sleep deprived.
Establish visiting days and hours. “The first priority needs to be the mother’s recovery, the baby’s health and, of course, that new family bonding,” says Evans. If you’d rather be alone the first few days after you get home from the hospital, let family and friends know ahead of time: “We’re anticpating that July is going to be quite busy so we’d love to see you in August instead.” When you are accepting visitors, let them know the hours that are best for you. If you have a big extended family, consider holding an open house for two hours to get lots of baby admirers in and out in a short time.
Steal a trick from post-partum doulas and put a sign on the door that requests visitors stay for a maximum of 20 minutes (or whatever timeframe you prefer) and asks that they complete one small chore while they’re there from a list you’ve prepared. Include things like folding laundry, taking out the recycling or washing dishes. People usually want to help; just let them know how best to do that. “It helps them feel appreciated and trusted that they’ve been able to help your new family,” says Evans.
If you’re breastfeeding, use an expert’s advice to get the privacy you need to learn the ropes and to pry the baby from the arms of people who want to “help” by holding your newborn for hours. Say, “I need to breastfeed 12 times a day,” or “I have to go upstairs to breastfeed.” Evans says most people are respectful of that relationship and won’t want to get in the way.