I remember going through the holidays with a baby. I had a three month old by the time Christmas rolled around. Getting through the holidays with a baby is no walk in the park. It takes some strategy and planning to make sure that you and your family have a holiday to remember without you completely losing your mind in the process.
Life with a baby doesn't stop because it's the holiday season, does it? You can't escape new motherhood just because you'd rather have a stress-free holiday. The good news is, you don't have to. You can have a memorable, joyful holiday with your new baby. I promise.
Holidays With A Baby Can Be Scary
I know how it feels when you've been doing your best trying to get your life together with a newborn and now you feel like the holidays are about to throw a wrench in all of your hard work. If you've been struggling with your baby's sleep routine or you just started getting a silent night, I know that it can be terrifying to think that you might screw it all up with holiday festivities.
With the holidays comes a lot of pressure for new moms to pull it together and get everything done just like you always have. You find yourself with no time to relax and enjoy the season because you are consumed with the stress of it all. It is difficult to manage the busy holiday season with a busier baby, but it's not impossible.
With these sanity-saving tips to surviving the holidays with a new baby, you'll be able to enjoy your favorite holidays without feeling isolated or overwhelmed.
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Tips To Surviving The Holidays With A Baby
I want you to experience the holidays without experiencing the overwhelm. My hope is that you can live your life and make important and long lasting memories with your new baby while they are still tiny. I don't want the memory of your baby's first Christmas to be a blur of holiday cards and rejected holiday party invitations. You can get out there and have a holiday that you can look back on fondly. This is how.
1. Space Out Celebrations
You should space out family get togethers and holiday outings. Even the small family traditions that you do in your own home should be planned ahead of time and spaced out so that you don't need to feel like you need to do everything done one weekend. Get out your calendar and decide when you're getting the tree, what night will be baking night, what weekends are available for holiday parties, etc.
If you wait until the last minute you'll feel like you need to get out the Christmas stockings, wrap the presents, bake Christmas cookies, and spend time with family all in the span of a few days. This is bound to overwhelm you.
Not to mention, overwhelming your baby with multiple activities in a short time can get them agitated and overtired. Make sure that your baby is well rested and well fed throughout every plan that you make by keeping their limits in mind.
2. Say Yes To What Is Important To You
What part of the holidays are the most important to you? If there is something you look forward to every holiday season, don't pass it up just because you have a baby this time. Make sure you are celebrating what means the most to you.
It can be very easy to come up with excuses to stay home and turn down opportunities to celebrate the season when you have a new baby. I know that your baby's mood and sleep schedule play a huge part in how often you get out of the house. But in these moments when you know it might be easy to say “no”, ask yourself if it would be worth it to say “yes”.
3. Say No Before It Becomes Too Much
Know what your limits are before you reach them. Going out and making memories is essential to this time of year… even when you have a new baby. But getting overwhelmed with too many plans isn't beneficial for anyone.
If you aren't up for flying or long drives this season, you've got every excuse in the world to let your family know that you just aren't up for it. Discuss your plans with your partner and try to figure out what plans are priority this season and put everything else on the back burner.
4. Host The Holiday At Your House
There are many benefits to having your family-get-together at your own place. If getting together with close friends and family is important to you and you don't want to miss out on the festivities, having them come to you is a great option.
When you are in your own space, you're likely to feel more comfortable and at ease. Not to mention, your baby will feel the same way!
You won't have to pack a bag full of baby and breastfeeding essentials with the risk of forgetting something important, you'll be able to check yourself out every once in a while to regroup and recover, and you will be able to nurse comfortably. The best part about hosting in your own home, is that you can put the baby down at normal nap and bed times. It doesn't get any better than that.
5. Host Without Hosting
Here's the deal. You shouldn't take on too much responsibility as the host when you have a baby on your hip/boob. If you do decide to have a holiday-get-together at your own home, make sure you get a lot of help.
Come up with an agreement with family members to host the party at your house but to not be responsible for the cooking and cleaning. Have your mom (or whoever is willing) come over to “host” at your house to make the holidays more convenient for you.
6. Have What You Need On Hand
If you do choose to get out of the house for the holiday parties this year and you plan to be out for a good portion of the day, make sure you have what you need when you go. Toting around a new baby during the holidays is no easy task but I'm sure you are quickly becoming a pro. How do we become pros at packing our car for outings with baby? Mistakes. Lots of mistakes -that's how.
I can't tell you how many times I forgot to pack something or it didn't even cross my mind to pack something for an outing with my baby. Too many times, I'll tell you that. So don't make the mistake that I did. Bring what you need in order to make sure you have options when your baby is (or better yet, YOU are) fussy, hungry, or tired.
Breastfeeding essentials, travel-able baby gear (nursing cover, rock n' play, swaddles, binkies, cups, play mat, blanket, hand sanitizer, more than enough diapers, jammies, extra outfit).
Here are some things that were easily packed into the car and that helped me out a ton when I was lugging around my baby to holiday parties when he was a newborn.
- Your most comfortable and full coverage nursing cover. Even if you like to breastfeed without a cover, bring one just in case you happen to change your mind when your brother-in-law and his wife is glaring at you from across the kitchen. This is the one I always used when I was going to be in a group of people. It was no-fuss and easy to use, I was still able to visualize my baby, and I felt like I was really covered.
- The rock ‘n play – I was able to put my son in the rock n play by my seat at the table and eat dinner in peace while he happily rocked. It didn't take up a lot of room in the trunk because it folds nicely and didn't need an outlet in order to be functional. It was a total win.
- Depending on the age of your baby during the holidays, a booster seat can be super helpful. If your baby is old enough to sit and eat with you at the table, it's probable that you're going to need to bring your own seat. Don't get stuck holding your baby on your lap while he palms your plate full of Christmas dinner.
- Moses basket– A Moses basket is easy to travel with and makes nap time much easier when you're heading to a home that doesn't have a safe place for your baby to rest.
- Baby Carrier / Sling– for so many reasons! It's a way to keep your baby close while still being hands free, first of all. But also, it's a sly way to keep hands and kisses off of your baby's face if you're worried about over-stimulation and germs this holiday. No one is going to bother your baby that's tucked tightly on your chest.
- Extra outfit– your baby is bound to spit up or have a diaper explosion before the family pictures. It's in the manual. Bring an extra picture-worthy outfit just in case.
- More than enough diapers– You don't want to be caught diaper-less after the third surprise poop of the day. Grab more than you need.
- Swaddle or blanket- basically something that you know calms your baby. It might slip your mind to bring the swaddle if you don't plan on putting your baby to bed, but sometimes all of the stimulation of a holiday party can leave your baby craving to be swaddled or put into a position that makes him feel safe and at home. If that means a lovey, don't forget it!
- Play mat– This might seem like a little much when you are packing the care to leave, but in my opinion it's worth it. It's nice to have somewhere to put the baby down to be entertained for a few minutes. It's another thing that will help baby feel more at home, give him the activity that he needs, and give you the hands-free moment that you deserve this holiday season.
- Pajamas – this is a huge one! If you plan to be home after bed time, it is super important fo your sanity to bring the jammies. The drive home is sure to put your baby to sleep and having them already in their fresh diaper and jammies will be a life saver when you get home and can transfer them straight to the crib without needing full change.
7. Be Easy On Yourself
Give yourself permission to slack in certain areas of the holiday. Maybe all of your decorations don't go up this year or you don't get the Christmas cards out on time. That's ok.
Some things need to give. The advice that I'm giving you today is to give up the things that put the pressure on you to do what everyone else wants. Only do the things that are easy on you and make you happy. Be O.K with this holiday not looking, smelling, and feeling exactly like the previous years because this time you are cutting yourself some slack and reminding yourself that you are doing enough already.
8. Do Your Holiday Shopping Online
If there was ever an excuse to get all of your holiday shopping done while sitting on the couch in your pajamas, it's having a baby. Shopping online will help you avoid dirty, germ-filled strangers breathing on or touching your baby.
The past two years I have literally done 90% of all of my shopping online during the holiday season. With Amazon Prime, you really can't go wrong. Here's a fun tip:
My family and I, for the past few years, have created Amazon Wish Lists for Christmas gifts. We each create a public list so that we can see each other's wishes! I mean, Amazon has so much to offer, it's easy to create the list entirely there, but you don't even have to! You can add any item from any website to your Amazon Wish List! So, anything I want for Christmas this year, I add to my wish list to give my family ideas of what to get me and they do the same. This makes holiday shopping SO MUCH EASIER. I don't know how our parents generation ever survived without Amazon Wish Lists. And Amazon Prime? Two day free shipping? Don't even get me started.
Here are other great places to shop (and add to your wish list) if you are a new mom going into your baby's first Christmas:
- Stroller Depot – This is not just a place for strollers. I find such adorable things there all of the time including baby clothes, swaddles, and toys.
- Gymboree– One of my favorite places to buy baby clothes!
- Freshly Picked– has some of the cutest baby shoes on the planet
- Project Nursery– has EVERYTHING! I love shopping there for everything baby. If you're tired of seeing the same ol' stuff and want something unique and adorable, this is the place to look.
- Pat Pat – super cute outfits including matching outfits for mom and baby if you're into that!
- The Baby Cubby– again, super cute stuff that you don't see everywhere else. I love this online shop full of finds from clothes, to accessories, toys, and feeding. It really has everything you're looking for your baby this Holiday.
9. Set The Rules For You And Your Baby
When you are in someone else's house, or even when you are hosting a group of people in your house, it might be difficult to enforce rules because of your desire to please everyone during the holiday season. Let that feeling go right away. You don't need to sacrifice what is important to you just to make everyone feel good in the moment.
Talk about the rules and write them down in your phone so that you don't forget. Make sure your partner is on the same page with you when it comes to each point. You can even send out a quick email or text before the festivities begin so that family members know where you stand on these subjects before they dive in for a slobbery baby kiss.
Rules may apply in multiple areas such as hand washing, naps, what your baby eats, pacifier use, who get's to hold the baby, etc. In order to keep your new baby safe during the holidays, these rules should be set and adhered to according to what makes you, the parent, comfortable. Not what grandma thinks about it.
Here's a helpful list of “rules” that you and hubby can talk about before the day comes:
- No kisses on baby's hands or face
- Please do not place the pacifier in the baby's mouth
- No giving baby ANYTHING to eat without my permission first
- Wash hands before handling baby
- If you have been smoking, no holding baby
- Baby will sleep/eat at these designated times (so you don't have to feel bad about stealing baby away from grandma's arms in order to make sure baby is getting enough food and rest)
- The party ends for baby at this time
- The party ends for mom at this time (in order to make sure you are getting your rest without feeling guilty about leaving the party early)
10. Enjoy The Holiday Food
So, if you've been following along with my motherhood journey, you'll know that my son had terrible acid reflux for the first seven months of his life. It was at it's worse up to when he was about 3 or 4 months old. Well, lucky me, that means that Thanksgiving and Christmas both fell within that time period.
When he was suffering with reflux, I tried the Elimination diet in order to try to figure out what was irritating his little belly. I could hardly eat anything. So, on Thanksgiving I didn't eat any of the feast that our Aunt had made and I just ate some chicken and veggies that I cooked at home before we came. Did it make a difference? No. Did my son still throw up everywhere that night? Yes.
So, by the time Christmas came along, I told my self that I was going to be good and no indulge. Yeah right! It just wan't worth it. My baby was still throwing up no matter what I ate, so I enjoyed myself and had nuts and dairy and everything else that I wasn't supposed to eat. Ironically, Logan slept great that night.
11. Take Advantage Of The Holidays
Sometimes saying “no” to the holidays can seem like it's the easiest way to handle the stress of new motherhood but time and time again I found that it was the opposite. Going to family holiday parties where family that you trust is available to hold and care for your baby while you sit back and eat pie and drink hot chocolate in peace can be the most relaxing part of the entire holiday season.
I've found that getting to the holiday party may be difficult, but once I am there, I often find relief in knowing that I am not the only one around to sway and rock with my fussy baby.
12. Accept Help
The holidays are the best times to allow your family and close friends to give you a break when you feel like you're attached to a baby all of the time.
Getting away from your every day grind can be a huge relief if you let someone bring you food, cook dinner for you, or offer to watch the baby while you get the presents wrapped or go grocery shopping. Now more than ever, you need all of the help you can get. If someone offers, accept it! And no matter how hard it seems, being ok with asking for help is just as important as being able to accept it.
13. Expect Unwanted Advice
When you gather at the holidays, you might be around people that you haven't yet interacted with very much since you had your new baby. I guarantee they will want to give you unsolicited parenting advice or criticize the way you're doing things in one way or another. Just anticipate that it is coming, and have a plan for how you are going to handle it.
Make sure your partner is ready to back you up in the parenting decisions that you've made together. It's never fun to have to defend your parenting style, but it is easier if you know someone has your back.
14. Don't Be Ashamed Of Your Motherhood
This is an important one. Everyone understands that you just had a baby. Everyone can see that you're still recovering from this new motherhood train wreck that you feel like you just experienced and it's OK to not be 100% the person that you were before you had your baby.
Are you in sweats? Girl, go you. Do you have spit up on your shoulder? Mama, wear it proud. Is your hair full of dry shampoo? Hey, at least it's shampoo. Don't be ashamed of what your motherhood looks like. At least you got ready and pulled yourself together enough to make it to the holiday gatherings. That's a huge success!
Also, please, please, please, don't be ashamed of how you feed your baby during the holidays. This is a big one, for me. So maybe your mom or mother-in-law or whoever didn't breastfeed their babies and the way you're doing things isn't totally understood. Who cares! Don't be ashamed. My personal opinion is that no mother should ever have to lock themselves in a bathroom or upstairs bedroom away from everyone because they want to nurse their baby. For me, I didn't want to be exposed in front of my entire family but I also didn't want to be excluded from the festivities every time my new baby had to nurse. So I wore a cover. If someone is uncomfortable with that, it's their problem, not yours.
15. Keep Your Routine While At Home
You know that I am all about routine. A good routine is everything when it comes to your baby's sleep and happiness. I get that more than anyone! I had a fussy three month old during my first holiday season as a mom.
Do your very best to keep your routine throughout the holiday season. If your baby is doing well with his routine on a daily basis, you will be able to break that routine when it's important to you. Yes, I said break the routine and I mean it. I know how scary it can be to keep your baby up past bedtime or be away from home during nap time when you are still trying to get the most sleep out of your newborn as possible. I was totally there.
It really did feel like I had the baby that hated sleep more than any other child on the planet when he was born. So when the holidays came around, breaking routine and staying out past bedtime was terrifying. I was a part of a few mommy groups and motherhood forums online and I remember distinctly how paranoid people got around the holidays. They were turning down every holiday gathering and every birthday party and every important event because they were afraid to break their baby's sleep pattern.
One day won't mark the end of your progress.
I really do understand the fear but I hope you read this and believe me when I tell you that it's not worth what you're missing. Your baby's sleep will not be determined by one day off schedule. All of your hard work sleep training will not be ruined because of one late night out. The memories you make while with your family and experiencing the holidays will be well worth the schedule change for a night.
Don't buy into the idea that new mothers have to miss out on all of the fun because of their baby's schedule. It's not true. You can and should go out and have fun and participate in family traditions and make memories with the people you love. Your family members won't always be around and your baby won't ever be this small again..
16. Make Memories
Grab a baby-sized Santa costume, plug in some lights and take too many pictures. Even when you do take too many pictures, when you look back on these holidays with a baby, you won't feel like you have enough. Sing holiday songs to your baby, unwrap gifts with your baby, put them in cute holiday outfits. Do it all because this time is so fleeting and next year he will be walking and talking.
Holidays With A Baby
I hope you thoroughly enjoy your holidays with a baby this year. You absolutely deserve it, mama. Being a mother is all-consuming but you can still be you. You can still enjoy the parts of this season that you've always loved. Good luck and be safe this holiday! Oh, and congratulations on your new little bundle of joy!
Tell me about your first holidays with a baby. How did you handle it? Let me know in the comments section below!
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