Personal and Professional Visitors
During your hospital stay, you can expect a variety of guests, from family and friends eager to see your baby and wish you well to the hospital staff members who'll pay you a visit or two before you're discharged. Depending on where you give birth, there may be several different guidelines or rules in place regarding visitors. Always check with your hospital or birth center well in advance of your due date to make sure you understand their visitor policies.
Family and Friends
Most hospitals will allow you and your baby to have visitors during specific hours. There may be rules about how many visitors you can have at one time, or about whether children are allowed to visit you. If you have other children, they will probably want to come see you in the hospital and meet their new baby brother or sister, so find out what your hospital's policy is on children visitors ahead of time. Be sure not to tire yourself by having too many people visiting during these early days. On the other hand, some women find that having visitors in the hospital rather than at home can be more relaxing, since they are on neutral territory and don't feel as though they have to play hostess or clean up before the company arrives. Also, having some of your visitors come to the hospital instead of your house makes it easy to keep the visitors from staying on and on — you can always use visiting hours or an upcoming examination from a nurse as an excuse for cutting a visit short.
In addition to your friends and family, you can expect visits from a few professionals during your hospital stay. If you qualify for any social services or state aid, such as food stamps, Medicaid, or WIC, you may get a visit from a social worker, who may ask you about your home environment, other children, your partner, and other personal questions. The social worker may also ask whether you want home services or help with transportation to medical appointments for you and your baby.
Your hospital may also employ clergy, like a pastor, priest, or rabbi, that may make a visit routinely or by your request. If you've indicated a specific religion on your hospital registration papers, you may be offered a visit by a leader from your religious organization. Some clergy will perform blessings for new babies before they go home from the hospital.
At some point, your midwife or doctor will check on you and see how your healing is progressing. If your doctor or midwife works in a practice with others, the person who visits you postpartum may not be the same person who attended your birth. Be sure to discuss any concerns you have about your healing with your care provider, since you may not see him or her again until your follow-up visit in four to six weeks.
As mentioned previously, if you chose your baby's pediatrician or family doctor before you gave birth, he or she may examine your baby before you check out of the hospital. Otherwise, a hospital pediatrician will usually visit your baby — and have a chat with you — before you are discharged.
Help with Breastfeeding
Many hospitals employ a lactation consultant, or breastfeeding specialist, to help you get off to a good start nursing your baby. Sometimes, hospital breastfeeding specialists routinely visit new moms, but sometimes they make visits by request only. If you had a midwife for your birth, she should be knowledgeable about breastfeeding and willing to help. If you are having a hard time with breastfeeding and feel like you need some special help — or just want some pointers for nursing successfully once you're home — don't hesitate to ask whether your hospital has a lactation expert you can speak with. If they don't have a lactation expert available, you may be able to get a La Leche League volunteer to visit you in the hospital. For more information on breastfeeding, lactation consultants, and La Leche League, see Appendix B.
Your Own Customer-service Specialist
Your hospital may also have a patient liaison, a person whose job is to act as a buffer between patients and staff and make sure your needs and wishes are met during your stay. If you have trouble with a specific member of the hospital staff or are unhappy with any aspect of your care, it may be easier to talk to a third party than to directly confront the medical staff.
Keep in mind that you can refuse any visitor you don't want to see, or ask them to come back at another time. One of your rights as a patient is to choose your caregivers, which means that you can ask for a new nurse or doctor if you aren't comfortable with one who's assigned to you. In a teaching hospital, resident doctors do the bulk of the care. If you are willing to help train the doctors and nurses of the future, please do — but be aware that you have the right to ask for the care you want. Take a “consumer” approach to your health care — remember, it's a service you are paying for, even if your insurance company is picking up the tab. You have a right to feel well cared for and respected by the hospital staff.