Health Break | Published August 14, 2006 | Written by Diane Elliott, RN

Visiting New Moms: Wait Until They're Home!

There are certainly a number of energetic women who can birth a baby and never miss a beat. They look great an hour after giving birth and never seem to be tired (I have met maybe three). Some of these women love lots of visitors. They can sit, talk and care for the baby and carry on like the stork just dropped the little bundle into their waiting laps.

Many women, however, actually find the labor and birth process rather tiring. Occasionally, I even hear loud protests from women about the entire system. These moms seem to need rest afterwards, and in some cases, they appear a bit sore. They certainly appreciate good friends and family, but are generally not extremely energetic. Often they comment that what they would really like is an uninterrupted nap, but they are expecting a visitor. Which brings us to

Guidelines for Visiting

Now, we all know that the Maternity Unit is the happiest place in the hospital. It's fun to see the little ones fresh out of the oven, so to speak. But it might be even more fun for all involved to wait and visit the little one at home. Here's why.

First, Mom and baby are often tired. Giving birth/being born takes some work, and Mom and baby need rest. This is one reason visiting hours are limited. Also, moms sometimes don't have the energy to freshen up before seeing visitors—especially if they don't know when the visitors are coming.

Second, there is sometimes a lot to learn about feeding, diapering, etc. The problem is most insurance companies allow only one to two days for new parents to learn all of this. Breastfeeding, which is healthiest for moms and babies, also takes time to learn, and can be hard to practice while visitors are in the room.

Also, babies are not born with strong ways to fight diseases. Babies who are breastfed are able to fight off more diseases more quickly, but it still takes time to be able to fight germs. Unfortunately, with a lot of people come a lot of germs. Young children who visit are the worst offenders, because they can have runny noses and don't wash their hands as often as adults. Another reason visiting is limited deals with security. Fewer people on a unit means less confusion and less to keep track of.

Now, in spite of all I've said, I have to admit that as a new mother it was great fun to show off the future first female president to any interested parties.

So what's a visitor to do?

In the interest of patient well-being, no more than two visitors at a time should visit. Be aware of visiting hours for the Maternity Unit at Mount Nittany Medical Center and abide by those hours: 9:00 am to 9:00pm for fathers (fathers can be granted extended time); 11:30 am to 8:00 pm for grandparents and siblings; and 4:00 pm until 8:00 pm for other visitors.

Before making a hospital visit to Mom, Dad and the newborn baby, consider the following:

  • If you can, call in advance or several hours after the birth to find out what the parents prefer.

  • Read between the lines. It's tough for some moms to say, "Please wait (or please leave) – I really need a nap!"

  • Leave children under 10 at home, unless they are siblings of the new baby. Most children are just as happy to stay out of a hospital and visit later.

  • If Mom decides she wants visitors, limit the number and limit your stay. Especially if this is the first go-round for Mom and Dad, they may have a lot to learn. Remember, other visitors might be coming, too.

  • Instead of a visit, consider letting the new family know you care by sending flowers, calling or, better yet, sending a meal once they are home.

New parents need the support of good friends and family. Sometimes the best way to show you care is to give the new family time to themselves. Plan a nice visit for later when Mom, Dad and baby are rested, relaxed and ready to introduce the future president to the world!

Diane Elliott is a registered nurse, mother and clinical educator for Mount Nittany Medical Center.