The holidays are a time of cheer, family time and….fussy babies? Our Decembers are often filled with errands, visitors, stress and travel – all things that can make for overtired and overstimulated babies. While we do need to slow down when we have children it is still possible to have a full holiday season and happy babies. Here are a few tips for enjoying the holiday season with children:
1. Plan car travel times around baby’s routine when possible. If your little one will sleep in the car plan drive times after bedtime, during nap or in the wee hours. If your baby does not sleep well in the car plan for breaks around feeding times to give baby a chance to be out of the car seat. Keep realistic drive time expectations, it is unlikely you will be able to travel as quickly as you did before baby.
2. Wear your baby. Whether you use it for ease getting through the airport or grabbing Christmas dinner groceries, wearing your baby can make things easier for you and baby. With babywearing not only do you have both of your hands free, baby might even nap while you are traveling and running errands. Babywearing is also wonderful for reducing over stimulation as baby can snuggle close and rest. You can even use it to prevent well meaning family and friends from playing pass the newborn during baby’s fussy times without having to say a word.
3. Delegate and decline. It can be very hard to ask cousin Sally to make an apple pie when everyone is used to your famous recipe, but if it feels overwhelming to make while caring for a little one it is more than okay to delegate tasks to others. It is also okay to decline invitations and activities if you think it will be overwhelming for you or baby. Having a baby does not mean you need to stay home all the time, it simply means reevaluating priorities. Some functions, especially with family, can be worth the gamble of a fussing baby but not every function is.
4. Make use of the guest room. When visiting family and friends it can be helpful for baby to get some quiet time away from all the extra stimulation. Even just twenty minutes in a quiet room during a feed can help keep a baby calm throughout a get together. It can also be a great time for mom to reset and grab a quick nap with baby to get through an extra long day while still in the midst of new mom sleep deprivation.
5. Smile, nod and trust your instincts. Family functions seem to be a great place for unsolicited advice. There might be times the advice seems helpful, but if it does not sit well with you trust that you know your baby and their advice is not right for you. Do not let others lead you to question your parenting abilities.
6. Do not worry about the to do list. Holidays with children can be very exciting, you want to pass along fun family traditions and experiences. Fancy decorated tree, crafts, traditional dinners and more are very wonderful traditions but children will remember how the environment felt not how it looked. It is okay to have a to do list, but be conscious of your mood and your relationship with your little ones.
7. Remember that crying is a late cue. We cannot always catch baby’s communication before crying but when we can, we can often solve the problems in less time. Watch for signs of over stimulation such as fussing, being unsettled or avoiding eye contact and looking off into space. When you notice these things try wearing baby facing you or spending time in a quiet room. Watch for early signs of tired like yawning, rubbing eyes and fussing. It can be hard with traveling and errands, but try to feed baby on demand when you notice early signs of hunger. Meeting baby’s needs as soon as you are able keeps baby happier and parents calmer.
8. Do not expect perfection. Even the most even tempered baby will have bad days. New sights, sounds and people can be a lot for little ones. Expect some fussing and changes in routine and be flexible with handling them. Babies are separate individuals and no matter what we do sometimes they are unpredictable.
9. Do not forget to rest! Before kids we could often easily catch up on our rest post holidays. After kids catching up on rest feels like an impossible feat. Catch naps with baby when possible and try not to stay up too late working on your holiday to-do list.
10. Enjoy the holidays. It can be easy to focus on how difficult it is to get things done and travel with a baby but focus on the wonderful things that come with little ones at the holidays. The joy in new grandparents’ eyes, lots of snuggles on days off from work and their delight in the simple things like bright Christmas lights.
Whatever your holiday plans are, try to slow down, listen to your baby and focus on the joy of this season.