It’s easy for things to go wrong when it comes to hospital visitors after birth, because emotions run high and having a baby brings people together in odd ways that daily life doesn’t, just like with weddings. Plus, things rarely go the way we expect them to, and that can cause problems when it comes to visiting.
Seeing people after having your baby is more complicated when it’s your first time and you don’t know what to expect! It’s easy to overlook key factors when you make visiting arrangements if you’re guessing at what it’ll be like.
In this post, we’ll bridge some gaps.
Getting what you want out of your visitor dynamic
It seems like most people want two things out of their visiting experience: they want to protect their bonding time with their new baby, and they want smooth, peaceful visits with family and friends.
When I was forming our birth plans, I pored over testimonials from other moms on how they handled visitors, and eventually decided on a plan. We’d alert my parents and my husband’s parents (and maybe a few other close family and friends) when we were in labor. We’d wait to tell everyone else until after the birth. We’d allow visitors after a couple hours to bond as a new family of three.
If our birth had gone according to plan (what a funny joke!), I think it would have left us dissatisfied.
Having a plan in place for visitors is a good idea, but you’ll want it to be a realistic plan. A good plan will make the process smoother, give your family and friends an idea of what to expect, and allow bonding time with your new baby right after birth, if you want it. To get there, though, you’ll have to make informed decisions that allow for realistic outcomes.
Setting time limits is a bad idea
Maybe you’ve heard it said that you should tell your family you won’t see visitors for the first one to two hours after your baby is born. This seems like sound advice, but it can easily cause problems because it doesn’t account for some very important things.
Setting a timer sets the stage for a clock to begin ticking as soon as your baby is born, and you won’t realize how much time passes when there’s business to take care of after you have a child. Time limits can frustrate your loved ones and even leave you with no bonding time at all.
So, here’s what I think is best practice if you want visitors after birth: tell your family and friends to wait to come to the hospital until you’ve told them you’re ready for them. Here are four reasons why:
#1 Birth doesn’t end when your baby is born.
There are loose ends to tie up!
When you think about childbirth, do you dream of that golden hour right after they place your baby on your chest, when you get to snuggle skin-to-skin, watch your newborn do a milk crawl and latch, breastfeed for the first time, and bond with you?
A lot of women do get to have this glorious time, but we forget that there are other things that occur after you give birth before you get to be alone to spend time as a new family. You have to deliver the placenta. You might need stitches. There’s cleanup to be done. Baby has to be weighed, measured, and cleaned at some point. There’s business to take care of.
Or, if you have a C-section, you’ll have to spend time getting put back together and then hanging out in the recovery room so they can monitor you because you just had major surgery a few minutes ago. You’ll probably get some time to snuggle baby while you’re there, but other people will be in the room.
You won’t realize how much time passes tying up all the loose ends of birth.
Take a look at my birth experience for an example:
Around 11 A.M., I notified our parents that it was baby day. My parents ended up arriving at the hospital from 4 hours away before we even had the C-section, and sat around eagerly waiting to meet their first grandchild.
From walking back to the OR to when my parents finally got to visit us in our postpartum room felt like maybe 2 hours to me, because it was kind of a blur and I wasn’t interested in keeping track of a clock. Looking back at the time stamps on my phone’s photos, I was startled at how much time everything actually took.
My daughter was born at 5:16 P.M. At 5:45 P.M., she was checked out in the recovery room for oxygen issues while I was still being worked on in the OR. At 5:49 P.M., I was wheeled into recovery to join my husband and daughter. Lydia’s nurse couldn’t find a portable oxygen monitor, so she had to stay across the room with her daddy for what felt like an eternity.
I finally got to hold her for the first time at 6:10 P.M. A few minutes later, we tried latching for the first time.
At 7:04 P.M., still in the recovery room, my nurses took a selfie on my phone. At some point after this, we were moved into our postpartum room, got oriented with a new nurse after shift change, and got settled in. Almost as soon as our nurse left us, we told my parents they could come in.
The next thing on my phone is a video of my parents finally seeing their granddaughter for the first time…at 9:40 P.M.!
That’s more than four hours after our daughter was born.
We got to do some skin-to-skin and bonding in the first two hours of her life, but only because I had to stay in the recovery room for a while. Otherwise, all of that time was spent tying up loose ends and moving to our postpartum room.
No matter how you have your baby, there’s stuff that needs doing afterwards that you have to account for. You just won’t know how long it’ll take to do all the normal things that need doing until after they’ve happened.
#2 If problems arise, they take time to deal with.
This one is similar to the last one. While the normal things can take longer than you might expect, if something goes wrong, you don’t know how long that will take to deal with, either.
Hopefully, your delivery experience will go smoothly and you won’t encounter any problems! Sometimes, though, the unexpected happens.
Problems don’t have to be very serious to be time consuming. Maybe you take longer than expected to deliver the placenta. Maybe your baby needs to be worked on a little bit because it aspirated some meconium.
If you do experience more major problems, you may not have time or even think of alerting whatever family is waiting on you, and it might leave them waiting and waiting, growing confused, frustrated, and worried. Of course, they’ll understand later, but it would be better if they weren’t there to be kept waiting to begin with.
#3 You won’t know for sure how you’re going to feel until you’re in the moment
Maybe you end up wanting more time than you thought before seeing anyone. If you’ve already set an arbitrary time for when visitors can see you, you’ll be hard-pressed to change it in the moment.
On the flip side, maybe you want less time than you thought! You’re eager to show off your baby and impatient for your family to come, or maybe you’re exhausted and you’d like to get those first visits over with so you can rest.
You may have a very good idea of what you’ll want ahead of time, but if you’re wrong, you’ll be stuck. Wanting less time before visitors probably won’t be a huge issue, but if you end up wanting more bonding time with your baby before your visitors roll in and you don’t get it, you’ll most likely regret it.
#4 Know your hospital policy
One last thing I’d recommend taking into account when planning your approach to visitors in the hospital: call and ask your hospital about their visitor policy.
My hospital had no restrictions on visitors. People didn’t even have to check in when they entered the L&D and Postpartum units; they just walked right into the rooms!
In contrast, my cousin’s hospital made you sign in at a security desk, scanned your driver’s license, took your picture, made you wear a printed name tag with that photo (with a fancy ink line that would turn another color when it expired, at which point you had to go back to the security desk and renew your visiting pass), strictly would not allow more than 3 visitors in the room at any given time (including your main support person), and would call the room to ask if a certain visitor was okay before they would allow them through.
If you give birth at a hospital like mine, you may want to wait to tell some people you’ve had your baby to avoid anyone coming before you’re ready to see them.
If you give birth at a hospital like my cousin’s and you have a large family who all want to visit as soon as they can, you may want to explain the policy to them and decide a particular order in which people will visit you, since only 3 would be allowed at once (and one of the 3 may even be your partner).
Call your hospital well ahead of time and give their requirements some thought in terms of how it may affect your situation.
These are just a few aspects of having hospital visitors after birth that I never knew before I had a baby! Use them to help you make more informed decisions about how to handle visitors and show off that wonderful new baby.
Currently nesting by making all your birth plans? Here are some other helpful resources for getting ready to have a baby.