5 Tips on surviving the holidays with a newborn
Because that what the first few months are all about: Survival.
If you, like me, happen to have a new bundle of joy (and spit-up and poo), life is already hectic. Add into the mix relatives, parties, festivals, requirements in the kitchen, and you have a possible recipe for disaster during the holidays. But fear not! Here are some tips to help you enjoy the joyous season with your new little one.
1. Keep track of baby’s routine
Your baby may be too young to have a strict schedule, but that doesn’t mean she behaves randomly. If you keep track of baby’s routine, you will see the patterns that emerge, and be able to plan accordingly (a plan with a newborn is more like an “idea”).
Most babies under 6 weeks take 4 to 8 naps that range from 15 minutes to 4 hours, with 45 minutes to an hour in between, daily. Babies 6 weeks to 3 months take 3 to 4 naps that are 30 minutes to 2 hours, with 1 hour to 1 hour 45 minutes in between, daily.
That is a lot to remember! That is why I recommend a tracking app for your smartphone, something like Total Baby or Eat Sleep. Once you start seeing trends in your baby’s sleep behavior, going places will be much easier!
Most babies fall asleep easily in the car, so plan to leave for your event right before she might take a nap. If you pay attention to your baby’s sleep routine, you can keep her from getting overtired. The better she sleeps during naps, the better sleep she (and you!) will get at night.
2. Be aware of overstimulation
For infants, everything is new. Everything! From the swirl patterns on the flooring in your on-base housing to the twinkle lights at Tinsel Town, and the smell of baking cookies to the feel of the cute-but-itchy Christmas outfit (that will be clean for .578 seconds), all five of her senses are being bombarded every waking moment.
Now, this doesn’t mean you should never leave the house, turn off the oven and Christmas lights, and miss out on the holiday fun. But, by learning to see the world as your baby sees it will help save you from the dreaded overstimulation.
Babies give us all sorts of communication, we just need to know what to look for. She will try to escape by shutting her eyes tightly and turning her face away, her body may be tense and her fists curled tight. It may look like sleep, but don’t be fooled. This is called habituation, and is not true sleep.
An overstimulated baby is difficult to put down to nap, and a baby that misses naps becomes so overtired that nighttime sleep may be out of the question! If out and about with baby, make sure to limit her exposure to loud noises, bright flashing lights, intense smells and strong breezes. A little of these things is fine, even good, for baby, but do your best to give her enough quiet time to deconstruct.
A good option is to wear baby in a carrier that holds her close to you, providing a warm, safe space amid the chaos of the holidays.
3. Say No
The holidays bring plenty of stress and demands on our time. You may feel obligated to attend every invitation you receive, regardless of how you feel. Or you may feel that since you made 12 dozen cookies last year for the cookie drive, that you need to do the same this year. If this is you, there is one simple word that you must learn. Repeat after me: No. No, no thank you, Nein, Nyet, Īe!
With a new baby in the house, saying no sometimes (or every time!) is perfectly acceptable. Do what makes you happy, and if that is staying home and sleeping with the baby instead of decorating the squadron (alone, again), then embrace saying no.
4. Shoot for what is possible, not perfection
This goes hand in hand with the skill you just learned in Tip #4. Making your family’s holiday perfect may fill you with excitement or dread. Either way, with a newborn in the house, perfection is off the table!
If you want every corner of your house covered in faux snow and glitter, every tchotchke topped with a bow, and a new Elf on the Shelf spot every morning, you may be in over your head this year.
Instead, look for the things that truly fill you with joy. When all you do this season is decorate your tree, light the menorah, or wrap a few gifts while watching Elf, if you do it with someone you love, then your holiday is perfect. Just remember to take a few pictures of you with your wee one!
5. Enlist help
When all else fails, call in the cavalry! Whether you have family in town, a generous neighbor, or you have to break down and get a sitter, take some time off from parenting. Even if it is for just an hour, go get a gingerbread latte from Starbucks, get little holly berries painted on your toes, or find a freshly mowed lawn and make a grass-clippings angel.
Remember the saying, “It takes a village”? Sometimes your village needs to consist of paid help.
At the end of the day, remember that this is the season for peace, joy, and giving. You and your baby deserve peace and joy, and sometimes that means gifting yourself some baby-free time to achieve that.
These are just a few tips to help you get the most out of your baby’s first holiday season. Remember to hold her close, and cherish this time with your little one. Good luck and happy holidays!
Japan Birth Resource Network (A chapter of the Military Birth Resource Network) provides evidence based information and mother friendly support throughout Japan.
To learn more visit: www.militarybirthresourcenetwork.org