OBJECTIVE: in Australia, as in other developed countries, women have consistently reported lower levels of satisfaction with postnatal care compared with antenatal and intrapartum care. However, in Victoria Australia, women who receive private hospital postnatal care have rated their care more favourably than women who received public hospital care. This study aimed to gain a further understanding of this by exploring care providers' views and experiences of postnatal care in private hospitals. DESIGN: qualitative design using semi-structured interviews and thematic analysis. SETTING: private maternity hospitals in Victoria, Australia. PARTICIPANTS: eleven health-care providers from three metropolitan and one regional private hospital including eight midwives (two maternity unit managers and six clinical midwives) and three obstetricians. FINDINGS: two global themes were identified: 'Constrained Care' and 'Consumer Care'. 'Constrained care' demonstrates the complexity of the provision of postnatal care and encompasses midwives' feelings of frustration with the provision of postnatal care in a busy environment complicated by staffing difficulties, a lack of continuity and the impact of key players in postnatal care (including visitors, management and obstetricians). 'Consumer care' describes care providers' views that women often approach private postnatal care as a consumer, which can impact on their expectations and satisfaction with postnatal care. Despite these challenges, care providers, particularly midwives, highly valued (and generally enjoyed working in) postnatal care. KEY CONCLUSIONS: this study, along with other Australian and international studies, has identified that hospital postnatal care is complex and characterised by multiple barriers which impact on the provision of quality postnatal care. Further research is needed to evaluate routine postnatal practices and continuity of care within the postnatal period. In-depth qualitative studies investigating women's expectations and experiences of postnatal care in both the public and private sector are also needed.