How to Celebrate the Holidays with a Baby in Tow
From Crying Through Church to Breastfeeding During Dinner: How to Keep It Together During the Most Wonderful Time of the Year
The holiday season is a magical time of year, especially the first time you share it with your baby. Seeing your little one experience family traditions is one of the most rewarding times for a new parent. But it can also be super stressful. With the never-ending to-dos, countless events and—let’s face it—high expectations, this joyful time of celebration can quickly become a total drag. The solution? Prep yourself on these common pitfalls so you can avoid them or overcome them. Then, enjoy the holidays to the fullest.
Pitfall: Stressed-Out Parents
The holidays were stressful before kids. Now, you’re feeling extra pressure from all directions: Excited relatives, important family traditions—and, okay, all the other new parents on Instagram. The holidays are supposed to be a special, happy time for everyone, new parents included.
- Be realistic about how much you, your partner, and your kids can handle. Don’t overbook: Say no to some invitations and events so you can truly enjoy the gatherings you do attend, and skip the over-the-top decorating and marathon baking sessions if it’s just too much this year.
- Choose a couple special traditions that fit your time, budget, and energy levels—ones that you can continue to do in the years to come.
- Build in some time for downtime and self-care—all those visiting relatives eager to meet your new baby? Take up their offer to babysit and give yourself some quality, scheduled time off. Kids can pick up on their parents’ anxiety and frustration, so it’s best for everyone if you find time to unwind.
- If you’re nursing or pumping, be firm about scheduling breaks to do so, and make those sessions quiet alone time or one-on-one time for you and your baby.
Pitfall: Zero Privacy
It can be challenging to find a spot to sneak off to when you need to feed your baby during a holiday event; if you’re staying with family or friends over the holidays, you may feel like you’re never, ever alone.
- Level with your host early about your need for a private place for feedings during the festivities. Bonus points if there’s a lock on the door.
- If you’re pumping at the holiday party, make sure you’re prepared. Do you need a power adapter for your plug-in pump? Will you be able to rinse your equipment easily, or should you pack extra accessories? If noise is a concern, consider a hand pump or other less buzzy alternative. We can help you pick the right pump for the occasion.
- The same applies to sleep time for your little one: Skipping a nap is a recipe for disaster on an already stressful day. Arrange in advance for a private, comfortable, and safe spot for your baby to nap, and don’t be shy about asking partygoers to pipe down a bit if need be. They’ll thank you later when your baby isn’t screaming.
Pitfall: Food With Hidden Allergens
Winter holidays are delightfully food-centric, but for parents of infants or toddlers with food allergies, a buffet spread can be laden with landmines.
- If you’ve introduced solids and your little one is big enough to grab for a cookie, talk to the host, or the chef if you know who made what, to figure out what’s off-limits and make sure it’s out of reach.
- If you’re breastfeeding an infant with allergies or intolerances, be equally assertive about ingredients you need to avoid eating. Now’s the time to explain to your great aunt just how important it is that she level with you about what is or isn’t in her fruit cake. At a restaurant, speak to your server, the manager, or in some spots, you may even be able to chat with the chef.
- If you can’t get a straight answer, stick to foods you know are safe and avoid questionable ones. The holidays are not the time to risk an allergic reaction.
Pitfall: Major Meltdowns (theirs AND yours)
The combination of family pressure plus travel exhaustion plus high expectations from distant relatives who might be meeting your little one for the first time can make a tantrum feel catastrophic. If it happens, don’t panic.
- Find a quiet spot: Overstimulation can cause any person—young or old—to freak out.
- Plan ahead and pack a distraction: Whether it’s grabbing a book with your breast pump to give yourself a break from the craziness or tucking an iPad or favorite toy into your diaper bag to occupy your little one, you’ll be grateful when you get that much-needed breather.
- If present-opening or picture-taking is causing your little one to break down, take a time out from the festivities. (This can be the perfect opportunity to sneak off for a nursing session away from the crowd.) Tight schedules, overexcited relatives, and Pinterest-worthy photos are no reason to push your baby over the edge.
One across-the-board holiday-enjoyment tip: Lower your expectations. You don’t have to have a perfect holiday in order to fully celebrate the season. Know that not everything will go according to plan, and focus on the reason for the season: Treasuring the time you have with family and friends. You’re not an Instagram feed: You’re a real parent, and you’re doing an awesome job.