During the holidays, we all juggle managing schedules and expectations between family and friends. But everything intensifies the first Christmas you experience with a baby. Fear not! Surviving Christmas is still possible and yes, it can even be wonderful with a newborn or a toddler, if you keep a few things in mind- and prepare like you’re heading on an expedition into the wild.
Surviving Christmas (With a Baby)
Christmas. It’s a dangerous world out there: travel, gift-giving, feasts, and family dynamics. Add in a bleary-eyed family with at least one infant or toddler and most might throw in the towel. Read on for tips on how to survive Christmas under some of the most adventurous circumstances, i.e. with a baby.
1. Establish expectations
Before the days get very busy, have a thorough discussion with your spouse about what you both hope the holidays will bring. Talk big themes and small details. What do you want to establish for your nuclear family? What extended family events are a priority? Are there events to which you want to bring your baby and others for which you need to get a babysitter? What are your expectations for gift-giving regarding the youngest family member? Are there discussions you need to have with grandparents?
Talk through all of this a few weeks before events begin. Then have the discussion again as the busiest days near. Emotions can begin to build and feelings can change as Christmas draws closer. Also, babies and toddlers are known for changing up their patterns and schedules when you most need them to be consistent. Surviving Christmas with a baby often requires you to re-evaluate plans a few days out and make adjustments.
2. Survive Christmas With a Baby by Taking Tasks and Events off Your List
If this is the first Christmas with a baby, create space, not projects. Look at your lists from years past and start developing the discipline of taking things off.
Life with a new baby or a toddler can be stressful on an ordinary day. Holidays that add to the schedule and busy-ness increase stress when you are likely already tired. Give yourself a break and get into the habit of saying “no” even to ideas that you love.
There are gentle ways to call boundaries. “We have a baby this year, not a Christmas Card.” “We’re drowning in kids – hope to make it next year.” We’re keeping our chaos corralled at home – enjoy the party!” Remember your closest relationships are built on years of shared experiences and connection – missing some holiday events cannot damage healthy and mature relationships.
3. Have a Plan for Being in Other Homes
Do you want family members holding your little one? Consider wearing your baby in a wrap, which allows you to show the baby but tends to hinder others from asking you to pass a newborn off.
Do you want to be hauling presents home along with a baby carrier, swing, and possibly high chair? Consider asking relatives to give small gifts, or even, ship them to you.
Do you need a private place to nurse? Plan out if you need to ask about a guest room and be sure to bring a nursing cover that you feel comfortable with.
Plan if you need to bring a seat for your child for the table. Is there a dog and your toddler is afraid? The more details you can plan for, the more moments you can prepare for – and surviving Christmas with a baby, takes preparation.
4. Survive Christmas (With a Baby) by Packing like an Expert
Pack the bag for Christmas events with extra clothes for mishaps, extra diapers, and food for yourself and little ones. Toddlers often will not eat at holiday events due to the disrupted routine and swirling chaos. Be sure to pack enough fruit, bars, and small snacks, that if your child eats NOTHING at Nana’s table, he or she will not go hungry.
Pack snacks for yourself if you are nursing, a water bottle and a change of clothes. Should you be in a back bedroom with a screaming infant, you will not go hungry or dehydrate.
Include in your bag, small toys or books. Pack favorites, as well as one or two new items that will delight, should someone begin to meltdown during Uncle John’s long toast.
Pack wipes. I know you do this already. Double the amount to survive Christmas with a baby. Just trust me on this one.
5. Believe You Will Recover and Laugh
Your infant may not get a single nap on Christmas day. Your toddler may end up ingesting more sugar in 2 hours than in her life up to that point. There may be meltdowns. There may be brand new toys broken and lost. Stop and laugh. Resist every urge to blame and criticize your spouse, your relatives and the Aunt who gave the doll that terrifies all of you. Surviving Christmas with a baby depends on your graciousness as well as that of others. Hold it lightly. We’re all in this chaos together.
6. Celebrate the Survival
You will recover. Your children will recover. Take notes for decisions next year, laugh, and crawl into bed. These years are exhausting, but they are not forever. Holidays can be prepared for, but they can’t be perfected. Some years you will thrive. Some years you will survive. All the years are worth celebrating.