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My wife and I are preparing to negotiate with our families about visiting our first baby. We want to take some time to recover and feel like we have a comfortable routine before taking visitors. We had discussed waiting a month but our families have already expressed a lot of interest in coming sooner. I'd love to hear about others' experience with this.

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I think it all depends on how much everyone likes each other. I couldn't blame any of our parents for wanting to see our kids the day they were born. –  DA01 Dec 24 '12 at 1:49
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Both sets of new grandparents came within the first month for our first. Your routine will likely get broken when they come; may as well get it out of the way. An extra set of hands during the first month always comes in handy too... –  Chris Dec 24 '12 at 3:06
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By the way, the word "negotiate" was not meant to be taken so literally. –  Mims H. Wright Jan 8 '13 at 19:39
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We let them visit while the baby was still in the NICU. But we were picky on who could hold her. Lots of hand sanitizer! By many bottles and have them always around for guests. –  Tony Jan 17 '13 at 15:16
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11 Answers

Once mom and baby are settled (eg, through first nursing), we are happy to have very close people drop by the hospital. Typically we will see Grandparents first day, maybe some aunts and uncles, and possibly very close friends. Others come over the days and weeks that follow.

It really has to do with how close you are to people. I am not a fan of doing things from obligation -- but rather doing it from relationship.

Try to put yourself in their shoes and do what makes the most sense for both parties. If this was your first grandchild, would you want to see him/her asap?

I will caution you that a 1 month old is barely a baby compared to a 1 day old. So if they mean anything to you from a family point of view, I would let them visit asap, but not be a burden on mom or baby.

Negotiate? Seriously? This is your family and your baby. This is not their decision AT ALL. You can be kind and thoughtful, or you can be unkind and disregard them, but either way, it is still your choice.

So... figure out who you care about, and see what they would like, then let them know what makes sense to you.

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+1 for "it's your choice", which is very well balanced with the first part of your answer. –  mthomas Dec 27 '12 at 20:54
    
This seems to imply that I should do whatever I want and it's not a negotiation but if I care about their feelings I should let them come immediately. It's a little confusing. –  Mims H. Wright Jan 8 '13 at 19:26
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We were delighted to have both sets of parents visit while in the hospital, but of much greater value was having them stay for two weeks each, giving us some much needed support in that first month while we were learning our way.

Your parents are an excellent resource to help make your lives easier, they can babysit, provide their experience, go to the shops or cook meals for you, or just generally be an extra couple of pairs of hands.

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At first: congratulations and the best wishes for you and your newborn! This is an exciting step and for sure a big change for your life as a couple/family!

What's your concern about the visit? What do you think might happen, that disturbs you or your new daily routine?

Do your parents live far away and have a long journey, or could they "just come over" for some hours? - probably not...

I'd agree with gahoo, Rory alsop and the comment of DA01:

if there is no general problem with the relation between you and your parents, you should give them the choice to see the baby - at least for a short time.

Conditions are clear:

  • YOU decide how long and what will happen.
  • You do not have to be as hospitable as in other situations (this visit shall not make more work for you!),
    so you don't have to clean windows or prepare a great meal for your guests, but maybe your guests could cook something and bring it to you, so that you can have a meal together or you could find other ways how they can help you with the baby or the housework

Sure the visit might break your fragile daily rhythm with the baby for some time, you can always remind the guests to be respect your wishes and do not disturb the baby when it is sleeping or in a bad mood..

.. but if you wait for one months, the baby will not be the same as now, so give your parents a chance to see it as it was born, if there are no severe counter-arguments.

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There are a lot of factors that can play into this decision, so its hard to give a specific answer.

Delaying access to your relatives by more than a few days, or perhaps as much as a week, runs the risk of hurting their feelings, unless you give them specific reasons why.

That's not to say there aren't good, specific reasons to hold off on visitors.

While it is true that, as other posters have mentioned, having relatives over to lend a hand during the first couple of weeks can be a huge help, it also has the potential to be the source of stress and conflict (depending upon your relationship with them), neither of which are worth risking when you should be focusing on bonding with, and learning how to care for and interact with, your first child (or any subsequent children, really).

Another factor to consider is the birth itself. Some women are able to get back to a normal routine very quickly after giving birth. However, this is not something you should count on, as a difficult birth, c-section, postpartum depression, or simply the emotional and physical drain may make a reduction of interruptions and distractions particularly helpful to the mother (or the father!).

If you are having your baby in a hospital, my suggestion would be that you offer to let your family visit in the hospital before discharge, if they can make it, and then scheduling a longer visit later, at a time to be decided after you get home.

The advantages of having the visit in the hospital are that it is much easier to control the duration, while eliminating any frustration your relatives may have about having to wait. You have the option of claiming exhaustion to clear them out when you want them to leave, or, if you are concerned about the personalities involved overstaying their welcome, you can ask the hospital staff ahead of time if they could impose a time-limit (i.e. ask them to come in 15 minutes, 30 minutes, etc. after your guests arrive and announce that the mother and baby need sleep, and that all visitors need to leave).

Even a brief visit will usually tide people over, particularly if they know they'll get more time to spend with the baby in the near future.

Asking to schedule the longer visit after you get home allows you to gauge just how you feel about company. Maybe the thought of assistance, even for an hour or two, becomes much more attractive after a few days with your newborn. Or maybe you quickly fall into a routine that where visits would be unpleasantly disruptive. Either way, you will have more specific reasons that you can present to your relatives when scheduling the follow-up visits.

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If you're having to describe this process as a "negotiation" then I get the impression that relations between your family and your parents/in-laws aren't always the most hospitable. Perhaps I'm reading more into the word than was intended. Are they the types of people who tend to over-stay their welcome? Show up unannounced? Have unreasonable expectations of you and your wife when they come to visit?

Before you have these conversations with your families, make sure that your wife and yourself are absolutely on the same page, and agree that changes can be made after baby arrives if necessary. Sure, it sounds like a good idea to say "No visitors until baby is 1 month old" until you get to week three of no sleep. Suddenly, having someone who could watch the baby for two hours so you can grab a cat-nap sounds like the best thing in the world. And you can have different rules for different family members. She might want her mom around more during the first few weeks than she wants your mom around. Or vice versa.

As previous posters have pointed out, any "routine" you have within the first month is going to be tenuous at best on a good day, and the second month improves somewhat. There will be days when baby sleeps most of the day and wakes only to eat and go right back to sleep and then is up most of the night. There will be cluster feedings. There will be days when baby is surprisingly alert during the day and sleeps pretty great at night. And about the time you think you have a routine, something happens to disrupt it. Parenting, in general, is all about having a general routine and then working around the disruptions.

So I guess it's more a question of whose routine you are more concerned about disrupting? You will more easily fall into a routine than your child will, and, for the most part, that routine will revolve around responding to what your child needs when he/she needs it. In this case, it doesn't matter who's present. When baby needs to eat, he/she needs to eat. Or have a diaper change. Or sleep. But the likelihood of a visitor disrupting a baby's non-existent schedule is slim in the first month to two months of life.

Barring any of the things I mentioned in the first paragraph (over-stayed welcome/unannounced visits/unreasonable expectations), and assuming that everything is going all right with feeding (I'm assuming your wife is going to try to breastfeed, if she isn't then that's a different situation), then sometimes it's easier to gird your loins and just get it over with quickly (like, within 2 weeks). Certainly with the grandparents at least. Just because you allow close family over does not mean you have to allow the whole neighborhood in.

Remember that, for the most part, these people care about you, are happy for you, and probably want to help you in whatever way they can. Surround yourself with the caring, loving people and disregard the malicious ones as best you can. And remember: YOU are the parent. YOU call the shots. If it's a bad day and you'd rather not have visitors, then don't accept visitors. No rules are set in stone unless you make them so.

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Two weeks into it and my wife and I were grateful for ANYONE coming over to the house and sit with the baby while we took a nap and had a decent meal together. It was great and I am very thankful for those that visited with us. –  Dave Nelson Jan 2 '13 at 15:02
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Well, and after about a week of self-imposed isolation, cabin fever sets in. Realistically, the only place you're going in the first two weeks is the pediatrician's office and it can get maddening not having much social interaction with anyone but your spouse and your (beautiful and amazing but non-verbal and much-sleeping) baby. Even if you don't get to leave the house, just having someone else to have an adult conversation with can be a life saver! –  Meg Coates Jan 3 '13 at 14:59
    
I will say that if family is visiting from further away, saying, "I'm sorry today is not good" can be more challenging. –  Ze'ev Felsen Oct 25 '13 at 1:13
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Short visits in the hospital or at your home from relatives who live nearby are rarely an issue, as long as they call ahead first. I'll focus my remarks on either extended visits from far enough away that the visitors can't sleep at their own house, or when someone lives close but wants to visit for several hours a day to help out.

In my experience, these kinds of visits are an annoying intrusion for the husband and a godsend for the wife. Especially if she is breast-feeding, and therefore unable to hand off feeding duty to you, she will be constantly exhausted for at least a month. Even if your wife has babysitting experience, she will find being responsible for a child 24/7 to require an almost completely different skill set.

No matter how prepared she feels now, your wife will want her mother's help and advice. The second best people to help and advise your wife are her sisters who have children or your mother, depending on their relationship. You will feel like your role as supporter is being supplanted, but you plain don't have the necessary experience yet. My advice is to accept the help graciously and enjoy the extra rest. You will have plenty of time after the visitors leave to bond with just the three of you.

Our first child was in the hospital for three months, so visits weren't much of an issue. We adopted our second child when he was a year old, and no one really asked to visit for some reason. Our third child was kind of the first one we had to deal with visitors, and I think what we came up with worked pretty well for us.

My mother-in-law lives 1500 miles away. While we were in the hospital, she stayed at our house and watched our other two kids. After leaving the hospital, she stayed with us during the week, and during the weekends went to stay with her other daughter who lives near us. This arrangement gave a helper for my wife while I was at work, and helped me get enough sleep so I could actually make it to work, but then on weekends gave us a break from the stress of hosting visitors, and gave my mother-in-law time to relax and recharge. We did this for a few weeks until my wife felt able to resume her normal duties with our other children during the day.

My mother-in-law argued against that arrangement at first, but commented afterward that she thought it worked better than similar previous visits for my nieces and nephews where she felt like she was "on duty" nonstop. My wife liked that she was never left alone when I had to work, and I liked that we had enough time with just us so I could feel like a real father. Of course, we were already experienced parents at that point, but the other benefit was my wife was very confident about knowing when she was ready to do without her mother's help, because she had "trial runs" on the weekends.

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Although it's been hinted at in some of the other answers, your main concern should be setting the expectations for anyone that comes to see you. No one should be "visiting" new parents, because visiting implies that you are the hosts and will care for them along with your baby. Friends and relatives should only "come to help" - anyone coming into your house should expect to cook, feed you, clean up for you, perhaps even make a shopping run. And for the record, "holding the baby" is not "helping". That is the mother's job, and everyone else's job is to do things for the mother.

If you can get your relatives to accept that message, you should not have to fear them coming over, and indeed they should be relieving more burden than they impose.

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There is no quarantine period. It's up to you. Newborns are at increased risk for infection-- especially this time of year (October - March)-- because of RSV, so you can ask visiting family and friends to wash their hands before holding or touching your baby and and ask that they touch the cute little feet instead of your baby's hands or face.

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I think it is all up to the parents and there is no right or wrong amount of time to wait.

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What about any social customs or the parents' need for their own space? They are important too –  alok Jan 28 '13 at 11:09
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I think a month will be bit long for your close parents to wait to come visit you and see the next wonder. But you are right : too soon is not a good choice. It's nice that you think about it, already for your first kid. I made the mistake to let friends and family come when they wanted and we had a bunch of visits at the hospital : it was exhausting. Even if each visit doesn't last long, the sum of them makes your day really hard. So personally I never visit friends at the hospital anymore.

My personal hint would be : plan to have visits, but not a lot of them on the same day. So a simple trick is to ask people to bring the meal. This way you have an excuse to ask for delay (they have to choose a date that is still free) AND you don't have to worry about cooking (which is a nice gift during those days when you have some much to do and are so tired)

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up vote 2 down vote accepted

Thanks, Everyone gave some good feedback and since I didn't specifically follow any one person's advice, I'll answer for myself.

In the end, we first talked came to a conclusion internally that made sense. The first week we'll be in hospital for most of that then at home for a couple of days getting our bearings. My wife's mom will come the second week and will focus on helping mom and baby. Then we have a week without visitors to take it all it and be amazed/sleepy/bored. Finally, we're inviting other family to come out after 3 weeks. Since we're planning on breastfeeding for the first 3 weeks, no bottles, this will also be more convenient timing.

All of that is subject to change if there are any complications of course. We might update this to allow short visits in the interim as an option, but since everyone lives out of state, I don't know how likely people are to take us up on that.

I think the most important thing in all of this was to talk it out and be on the same page before discussing it with the family. This also helps when you can give solid reasons to the relatives so they don't feel insulted.

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