Problem: During those first few precious days of nursing a new mother often has many visitors. Often these visitors want to hold the baby, comfort their cries with rocking motions, give mom a "break" by holding him/her, etc. These things are all nice... but they can also cause a disruption of that initial bond. That crying baby needs to nurse most of the time, not to be rocked, soothed, or pacified. If the visitor is staying in your home for an extended period of time they might be doing more harm than good.
Solution: Make a postpartum plan, just like a birth plan, that outlines your wishes, limits, and expectations. Share this with everyone before the baby is born and after. Please understand that the postpartum period is about YOU, BABY, and YOUR FAMILY, not your visitors. They should not expect you to host and cater to their needs. There is nothing wrong with asking visitors to bring food for the family, fold a load of laundry, and help out with household things so that you are better able to care for and bond with your baby. There is also nothing wrong with printing up a sign asking guests to wash their hands immediately upon arrival to your home and to limit visits to 30 minutes or less. I know Michelle at Mother Nurtured Midwifery has a sign families can post on their door following the birth of the baby. This allows the family to use her as a scape goat Isn't that sweet?
If this visitor is staying in your home, you may need to have a frank discussion with them about the importance of bringing baby to the breast often. This may lead into unwanted advice about how you are 'spoiling' the baby or that they must be 'starving and you should use formula since they nurse so much' and it is important to remember that babies have tiny tiny stomachs that need to be refilled with the good stuff frequently. It is biologically normal for your baby to wake at night to refill and to nurse very frequently during the day. There is nothing wrong with this, with your baby, or with you.
One of the biggest culprits behind milk supply issues is the fact that baby is not permitted unlimited access to the breast and one reason that baby does not get this access is because mom has many visitors to entertain, share baby with, and she may not be comfortable nursing in front of them, even in her own home. So limit visitors and if baby wants to suck, don't give baby a pacifier so grandma or aunty or neighbor can hold the baby a little longer. Give that baby a breast and ask your visitor to bring you a glass of water and a snack.
Please make sure all your visitors know how committed you are to breastfeeding, ask THEM to leave the room if you or they are uncomfortable with nursing at that time. This is your time to bond with baby, you need lots of rest, water, and skin to skin time. Your guests can admire baby while baby is in your arms, and even at your breast! Baby is at his or her best in your arms in those first days anyway. That's where baby was meant to be. Accept help around the home, with older children, and with meals, not with baby. Baby is your task these first weeks, developing a bond, establishing milk supply, and recovering from the birth are your only responsibilities Newborns are boring anyway (or so they say) there will be lots of time as baby gets older for giggles, smiles, playing, and the like. For now, you need a hot meal, a jug of water, and quiet time with your baby.
**I originally posted this article on The Good Letdown a few years ago in collaboration with a good friend of mine, Deanna.**