how to set family boundaries - mom after baby

How do you set family boundaries after having a baby?

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Having a baby is pretty much an open invitation for anyone to come to visit your newborn bundle of joy, right? Think again, sorry! Parents are getting little to no sleep, mom is physically trying to recover from birth, household chores have fallen to the end of the list and most parents are in ‘survival’ mode in those early days. So how do you set family boundaries after having a baby without hurting anyone’s feelings?

Well..first things first, you NEED to be on the same page with your partner. You both need to decide and list out whether you want visitors, how many, what days can they come, and much more we’ll talk about a little later in this post.

If this sounds like an area you’re struggling with — make sure you stick around to read how you can set some family boundaries without feeling bad about doing so.

family with baby

How do you set family boundaries after having a baby?

Setting ANY kind of boundary in life is hard. Ever find yourself at a job where every Friday your boss asks you to stay 15 mins late, you reluctantly say yes (each time), and then go home upset you ‘had’ to stay late?

THIS my friends, is where boundary setting works wonders! Boundaries help you have healthier relationships with others in a way to also help you prioritize yourself.

Think of it like…finally putting your foot down to all the things in life that just don’t serve you anymore, pretty empowering, huh?

Setting family boundaries with new baby

First up – family boundaries. Why the heck is it SO HARD to set boundaries with our families?

Well, for one, we’re telling the people we love (who also tend to be the most judgemental) that we have values and wishes that need to be respected. In some families, some members feel extremely entitled to visiting a new baby because “it’s their grandson” or “it’s my nephew”, failing to recognize that

  1. It’s NOT their baby.
  2. Ultimately — mom and dad set the final rules.

This then leads to resentment & frustration from family members and lots of anxiety from parents.

So how can you set up some family boundaries with everyones feelings in mind?

  • Make a list – sit down with your partner and make a list of boundaries you wish to communicate to your families together. These could be: if and when you’ll be accepting visitors, should visitors refrain from speaking about any particular topics, who wilI be in charge of prepping the home…
  • Prepare – discuss with your partner (in advance) how you plan to break the news to your families. Will you do it together? Is someone more receptive to speaking with just mom? Have a game plan in mind so that way if things escalate, you can remain calm and be prepared to handle it.
  • Stick to your boundary – as mentioned above, boundaries can be offensive to the ones receiving them. Be prepared to calmly stick to your boundary. This may mean your relationship with this family member needs some time to pause, adjust, and adapt to the new set boundary, but it will 100% be worth it.

When should family visit after baby is born?

Family visitations truly are 100% your own choice to make. Whether you want them there when baby is born or not for 4-6 weeks, the choice is yours as the parent.

Of course, if you have any kind of visitors they should always follow some basic rules:

  • don’t visit baby if you’re sick, getting over sickness or think you’re getting sick
  • DON’T assume it’s ok to give baby kisses
  • Wash your hands before touching/holding baby
  • Don’t come visit baby just to judge the upkeep of the home (because it likely is a bit run down right now and it’s nobody’s business to judge you for it)

Considering we’re in the middle of a worldwide pandemic — it’s been recommended that family members who do not normally live at the home with baby don’t visit until the pandemic is over [SOURCE].

For me, I’m a pretty private person. I didn’t want family over when I was walking around in mesh diapers, leaking milk from my boobs and running on no sleep.

After giving birth during this pandemic, I DEFINITELY didn’t want anyone over due to the nature of the pandemic itself and because I was recovering.

Take some time to think about what kind of visitation boundaries you want to set with your partner and have an open discussion about them.

Visible motherhood workbook

How do you handle in-laws after having a baby?

Oh the dreaded in-laws…I’ll be honest with you, I only get to hear about the ‘horror’ stories because, well I don’t have any in-laws! It’s a long story, but I’m definitely thankful to not have some of the issues I hear some of you mamas share, talk about stress!

I did a poll recently on my Instagram asking what kind of issues or problems did you face with your in-laws after the baby was born and this was the feedback I received:

  • They think they can visit whenever they want to.
  • Always telling me how to do things.
  • Telling me how I should be feeding baby.
  • Trying to tell me to take a break and let her (mother in law) take over when I’m not ready or don’t need a break.
  • I feel like my mother in law is literally trying to raise my daughter. She never follows our rules, gives her so many treats, and disregards anything I ever try to tell her.
  • Showing up to visit totally unannounced.

Yikes. So how can boundaries help this scenario? Well, you can try saying things like:

  • My partner and I don’t feel comfortable with you visiting unannounced.
  • I don’t appreciate it when you tell me how to [insert task here] (discipline our toddler, prepare the kid’s food, etc…).
  • I’m not ok when you don’t follow our rules, if this happens again, I would like you to leave.

How do you handle in-laws that overstep their boundaries?

The great thing with boundaries is that they implement a CLEAR understanding from the get go.

You share your request & consequences up front — this way, if someone oversteps their boundaries, it won’t be a surprise when they’re faced with the consequence.

For example: “We would really appreciate having a heads up before you show up to our home, if it happens again, we will have to ask you to stop coming”.

The request explains that you really need to be notified ahead of time before your in-law drops by; your consequence makes it clear that if it happens again, they will no longer be able to visit.

So if you have someone overstepping their boundaries, simply remind them of the consequence. If they do not wish to respect that consequence, you’ll need to discuss with your partner how to handle it further.

If things get messy and a bunch of family drama breaks out, you may want to consider family counseling. Often times, those deep family issues go unresolved for years, leading to communication breakdowns and issues in the future. Therapy could be a great way to work through that and get all family members on the same page.

Communicating these boundaries to your family

Communicating boundaries tends to be the difficult part when it comes to setting boundaries.

Using the tips below, you can clearly and hopefully, peacefully, communicate your new boundaries to your family without any kickback:

  • Use “I” statements — An example, “I feel anxious when you show up to the house unannounced. Therefore I feel it’s best to have a 2-3 hour notification before your arrival. If not, we may have to ask you to stop coming over”.
  • Be very clear about your needs — Set a clear message for your boundary. Don’t say “well sometimes it bothers me when you show up unannounced, I mean every now and then it’s ok, but not all the time, it’s ok today”. You need to be clear about the request you’re making and the consequence as well.
  • Be prepared for some kickback — Boundaries are hard for anyone to swallow. Sometimes, you may feel triggered by their response to your request, which is why it’s extra important to plan ahead for these kinds of uninviting responses.
  • Get ready to say “NO” — As much as you need to be clear about the boundaries you’re setting you also need to be firm about them. If your family member is asking for exceptions here and there, the answer is simply, no. And, trust me, “NO” is not a bad word, so don’t let anyone guilt-trip you for saying it!

There you have it, a breakdown of how you can get on the path to setting some healthy boundaries for your family for a wonderful relationship with one another!

grandparents with baby

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Read more pregnancy articles here:

How to set family boundaries after birth

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