Preparing to survive the holidays with a baby

Preparing to survive the holidays, with a baby – but not just survive, to thrive, enjoy and celebrate happiness with all the family, even if some things are a little more taxing!

This guide will be targeted specifically towards those who have a baby/infant in their family. The holidays can be especially difficult when it’s your first time and you’re feeling a little anxious. There’s a lot of pressure to juggle as a new family. I know I feel a lot of pressure to provide the perfect Christmas for my son, but with extra work and unknown challenges waiting ahead, it’s a bit scary. Despite being leery, I’m also super excited and so happy that we’re soon going to be celebrating his very first Christmas! Hopefully, it doesn’t turn out to be a complete disaster… but if it does, well, read on to point five!

You call the shots with a baby at Christmas

Christmas with a baby or young infant is a magical, happy and exciting time for everyone, as they get to meet all their relatives. But in this bustling, busy (and sometimes boozy) atmosphere, it’s very easy for a little one to get overwhelmed. There will be lots of sounds, sights and smells and as mum or dad, you are the one who dictates the shots. Think about who can hold him, for how long, when naps are needed, when food is needed and how much privacy you want and don’t be afraid to just say “We’ve had enough, we’re heading home.” If you’re already home, it is not rude to head up to a bedroom and have a bit of peace and quiet. Put your little one – and yourself – first. Don’t feel pressured into playing pass the parcel with a grizzly baby and put your foot down if you want a cuddle and Aunty Joan says “Give me a few more minutes!”

Safety Tips for Family Gatherings:

  • Ask family to share if anyone is unwell or has a cold over the holidays. It’s important that they understand baby immune systems are not fully developed and that baby doesn’t spend time with people who are contagious.
  • If anyone in the extended family is a smoker, make sure they wash their hands before handling baby and take off their outer layer that they’ve been smoking in.
  • If you’re visiting places with dogs or cats, ask that they are kept away if your baby isn’t familiar with them. Pets can be especially excitable (or nervous) with the extra bustle of Christmas. The time to introduce a baby to new animals is when everything is peaceful and quiet. Baby hasn’t learned yet how to interact properly with these animals, and little hands can grab and hurt as well!
  • Beer and babies don’t mix! Keep an eye on the drunken meter as people tend to overindulge over the holidays. There’s nothing wrong with that, but people who aren’t in full control shouldn’t be handling delicate things. Like children.

Be realistic about the logistics when preparing for the holidays

If you usually travel for 3 hours to get to grandma’s house and come home the same day – how realistic is this with a baby? Bear in mind by the end of the day baby will be tired and experiencing a bit of a sensory overload, so you’ll need to allow extra travel time if you want to get home and preserve the bedtime routine. You need to think about feeding, which might take extra logistics as you can’t breastfeed and drive, and if you need to make up a bottle of formula you’ll want to do this in a safe and sterile environment.

If it’s just not practical then say so and see if any alternative arrangements can be made. Don’t forget that video calling is a thing these days, so even if you can’t see all the family you can definitely keep in touch. We video call with a massive amount of relatives on Christmas Day and it’s loads of fun! Do not feel pressured to travel or meet other family demands if it’s not going to work for you. This is your new family now, and if you want to spend Christmas day at home and don’t want any visitors then that’s entirely up to you.

If you’re out visiting it might be worth making a timing schedule in advance. And then adding 30 minutes to every time you have to get ready to go out – and then another 30 just for good measure – because it always seems to take longer than anticipated. If you’re hosting, give people specific times that are good to visit – factoring in all the baby naps, and don’t be afraid to put your foot down and kick people out when you’ve had enough.

Don’t pack light if you’re visiting others

I’m a light packer usually. I will try and squeeze everything into one little bag so I’ve got as little to carry around as possible. This doesn’t work with a little one. Unless you have a real reason to (traveling on public transport for example), don’t pack light for a long day out visiting relatives or traveling to see family. Bung in everything. More nappies. More wet wipes. More changes of clothes. More toys. I even take my formula machine with me!

You never know if you’re going to be delayed or something’s going to happen and even if the stores are open, which they might not be at Christmas, you don’t want to take time out of the festive period to have to rush off and buy an outfit because baby just threw up on three in a row and poo’ed on the fourth for good measure. I don’t know about your kids, but mine will keep the poop explosion for the exact worst time! Let’s not talk about that time in the restaurant when he had a blowout just as the food arrived, there was a long queue for the ladies and I’d forgotten to pack any wet wipes.

Tip – Make a packing list ahead of time and you’ll not forget anything on the day.

Self Care is Incredibly important for new parents, especially at Christmas

You need to be happy and healthy in order to look after the baby as well. Don’t forget to stop and make time for yourself. If you have 10 minutes alone, listen to some relaxing music, pop up some aromatherapy oils or practice breathing exercises. Even if you have to nip to the bedroom (or even the bathroom) for a little time-out. Don’t worry about making everyone else’s day perfect that you forget to sit back and just enjoy spending time with friends and family. Oh yeah, and don’t forget to eat and keep hydrated too. It’s so easy to forget about ourselves when we’re thinking of others. Dad will also be working overtime trying to help out, and remind him he’s not superman and he doesn’t need to be. Think of each other and try to relax – easier said than done, I know.

Don’t stress if it all goes tits up

If the turkey ends up charcoaled and the wine is warm, your outfit has vomit on it and the baby throws all his food at grandma and the dog, don’t panic. No matter how much you plan or organize, something can always go wrong. Sometimes I think that by over planning (and I am a crazy planner) I set myself up for all these expectations that make it harder to relax and deal with when something goes wrong. I always think back to the Christmas where everything went wrong – and I ended up spending Christmas in the hospital with my grandma and I remind myself of how the family came together, how we all coped and made the best out of the day. Let’s not mention the family gathering where my mother gave everyone food poisoning with a turkey that she’d not checked the date on.. or the year where her oven broke on Christmas day and she had 4 different neighbours cooking food in their ovens for her!

When it all goes wrong you just have to step back and make the most of it and not let it get you stressed or down. Laugh, love and hug someone close to you. It’s way better than crying, trust me.

5 tips you need to survive, thrive and enjoy Christmas with a baby! Including what to do when it all goes wrong...

The most important thing is to prepare to have an awesome time, to relax, have fun and spend quality time with your loved ones, do you agree?

Updated November 2018.

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