A lot of women report feeling a new respect for their mothers once they have given birth. Now they realise what a mammoth job a newborn is, they marvel how their own mother seemed to manage it so effortlessly. This feeling sometimes extends beyond their nuclear family to other mothers in their family circle.

It’s hard to imagine how this feeling of bonhomie can disintegrate so quickly when the new grandparents or relations come to stay, but many a new mother, overwhelmed and exhausted, will heartily wish everyone else would go away and leave her alone. Or if you are staying in your mother’s home, you may heartily wish you were back in your own dwelling. But how can you say this without causing offence or seeming ungrateful.

One of the trickiest areas is that of unasked for advice, which conflicts with the path you want to follow. Things really have changed since the older generation were looking after babies. A classic example is the position a baby should sleep in. Nowadays a baby is placed on its back to sleep, whereas a generation ago it was on its front. At other points in history, it may have been on its side, or even on its head, come to that.

Try to keep in mind that they love you and their advice is born out of a desire to make life easier. If this is not the case and the baby is just another chapter in an ongoing war you have with them, then this will not be resolved now, so grit your teeth and keep visits short. There are probably three major areas of dispute:

  • Whether the baby is left to cry.
  • Where it sleeps.
  • And how it is fed.

It is quite likely that your parents followed a more regimented routine than you may choose to, but if they were raised in the first era of attachment parenting, it could be the other way round. They might advocate a more liberal approach, whereas you want to establish a routine.

Remember it is your baby and not theirs and you should stand firm on your choices, or at least stand firm on your ability to make choices when you feel ready. It is often observed that you don’t fully grow up until you are a parent and assume responsibility for another. You don’t have to take the advice, which is hopefully well meant, but try and remain calm, thank them for their opinion and explain you would like to try things this way.

If you have gone to your parents’ house and feel swamped or claustrophobic, it doesn’t have to be presented as a negative. You can avoid hurting their feelings by saying you would like to get your baby used to its home environment as soon as possible and suggest they come round for a visit, with one of your mother’s delicious home-cooked meals (!), very soon.

Ask for the things you need. If you have been used to looking after guests when they come to visit, you, or they, might expect this still to be the case. However, things are different now and it is essential to put your needs first. Quite often a visitor might think that they should entertain the baby, while you get the house in order. That might be fine for a flying visit, but if they are staying for a while, ask if they could make dinner or do the washing while you feed the baby or catch up on sleep. They may have forgotten how much emotional and physical effort goes into giving birth and looking after a newborn, so don’t try and be superwoman. Let yourself be pampered, let others do the work, even if they don’t do things the way you would like. This is not the time to worry about the housework, or indeed anything except getting to know your baby.