Inside the article: As if holidays aren’t stressful enough, having a new baby during the holidays can add an extra layer. This article discusses ideas for how to reduce stress and navigate the holidays, specifically how to work with travel and family expectations and have a memorable holiday season.
Before the Season
I look forward to the holiday season every year. And when I say holiday season, I’m talking about the moment the fall decor comes out through the new year. Who can resist a pumpkin-scented candle and a cozy plaid throw? Not me.
With holidays comes a lot of good: memories with friends and family, fun events to attend, and the exchanging of heartfelt gifts. I seriously dream about the lights and the smells. It’s truly the most wonderful time of the year!
Just because the holidays are wonderful doesn’t mean they don’t come with any stressors. Oh man, some of my most stressful times are directly related to holiday season. Whether it’s trying to buy the perfect gift or figuring out travel plans, it seems that something is always trying to steal some of my holiday spirit.
Now add having a baby to the mix! I remember vividly thinking about the first holiday season with our new baby and being both excited and anxious at the same time. Since my family is close, but my husband’s family is far away, who gets to have the first Christmas with us and our son? Is it safe to take him on a plane so early on? What new traditions will we start?
The questions were flowing, you guys!
I learned a lot this past holiday season, so I have complied a complete list of all of my tips and tricks on how you can navigate the holidays this year with a new baby and make it the most memorable season yet!
Starting New Traditions
One of the most exciting parts of the first holiday season with our son was deciding which traditions to start for him. Should we find a fun pumpkin patch event to attend? Do we open Christmas presents on Christmas Eve like my husband’s family, or wait until the morning of Christmas like my family?
The list goes on!
Having a new baby during the holidays gives you the perfect excuse to alter your typical schedule and start new, special traditions that are just for you and your little family. Here are some ideas of some new traditions to test this year if you’re stuck:
Fall & Thanksgiving
- Take a trip to the pumpkin patch. Pick out pumpkins and be sure to take a photo for your memories!
- Make a holiday treat, like homemade apple cider or pumpkin bread. Even if baby can’t eat it yet, they will love the holiday smells!
- Find a cute holiday outfit. We got ours from Mud Pie, and it was SO cute!
- Make or buy matching stockings to stuff and open on Christmas. Be sure to label them!
- Find a new holiday movie to watch. My family watched A Muppet Christmas Carol on Christmas Eve, and A Christmas Story on Christmas Day every year!
- Purchase or make a 1st Christmas ornament.
- Buy a special plate and cup for Santa’s milk and cookies. Bake cookies together on Christmas Eve (we use pre-made dough, no shame).
- Matching Christmas pjs. My personal favorite tradition from last year.
- Find a light show or drive through a neighborhood that goes crazy for lights. Your baby will love seeing the bright colors!
To Travel or Not Travel
Deciding whether or not to travel during the holiday season with a new baby is a huge decision. For one, it’s crowded and often more expensive during those popular days. For two, sometimes it feels less stressful to just stay home and have the first holiday with your little family.
Both reasons are totally ok!
With the pandemic aside, it is also reasonable to have some hesitancy with taking a baby on a plane in the first couple of months for health reasons. In fact, our doctor recommended waiting until our son’s first round of vaccines, and even later if we could wait.
For us, our son was 2 months at Thanksgiving, and 3 months at Christmas, and we made the decision to travel for both holidays. We sanitized everything (pre-pandemic!), and chose flights we thought would be least popular. We all made it out unscathed!
Definitely a future post on how to survive traveling with an infant… stay tuned by signing up for my newsletter!
One thing you can do if you are deciding to travel is trying to travel on non-peak days and during non-peak times like we did. This is easier said than done, but you can minimize the amount of time and contact your baby has with others this way. Honestly, I feel safer flying these days since the sanitization protocol is so much more rigorous.
With logic aside, there are also emotional reasons for not wanting to travel. For me, I wanted to have my son’s first Christmas with just me, my husband, and our son. I wanted to start our own traditions together, and not have the stress of managing others’ schedules and needs. It was honestly a wonderful day, and we flew out the next day to see my husband’s family.
Not ideal for everyone, but we didn’t regret deciding to stay home one bit.
Spend Your Money Wisely
Not all of us have an unlimited back account, much to our dismay! It can be tempting to pour your savings account into the most perfect presents for your new love. After all, they have been nothing but good this year!
You may even have this picture in your head of your little one with wide eyes staring at the gifts and ripping the paper off to reveal their new favorite toy. I get it!
Here’s the thing: they won’t remember this Christmas, they likely won’t really understand what’s going on, and toys have a short shelf life.
Instead of buying a bunch of toys that your baby will likely receive from other family members, take your budget and spend it on holiday experiences and traditions. I personally splurged on matching PJs and a custom stocking for our baby boy, and got a few little memorable items we can have in our Christmas decoration boxes for years to come.
As I’m writing this, I don’t even remember what we got our son for his Christmas gifts. That shows how much those things don’t really matter, but the memories do!
Prioritize Your Sanity
Remember when I said holidays are stressful? So much of this stress comes from trying to meet expectations and provide the perfect holiday experience for everyone.
Spoiler alert: it’s impossible!
Instead, focus on yourself and your needs, too. It’s a mindset: if you have a picture of what the “perfect holiday” looks like and are attempting to match it, you will always fall short.
Maybe your hosting dreams need to take a backseat. Perhaps the Christmas morning breakfast buffet can wait until next year. You are but one person, and cannot do it all.
Also, your sweet baby has needs. I know I stressed a lot when my son was a newborn because I knew I needed to go breastfeed or make sure he had a safe place to nap when he needed it. Excuse yourself and your little one politely when the needs arise. Trust me, people understand! And if they don’t, well… they don’t have to. 😉
What I would rather my son remember is his mom being fully present and experiencing the holidays together as a family rather than a frazzled, overtired shell. You’ve got this, Mama!
Boundaries, Boundaries, Boundaries
Setting boundaries is a vital skill in life in general, but proves even more crucial during the holidays. You and your family have the potential to be around a lot of people at once, and boundaries allow you to manage your own needs while also holding space for the needs of others.
For example, you can take your baby to the holiday party, but maybe no one will get to hold them. Or you go for an hour, but spend the evening with your little family in your own home away from the crowd.
During the Thanksgiving season, we traveled with our son to Southern California where my husband’s family lives. There, we had a meet and greet so friends and family could meet our sweet boy. However, not a soul got to hold that baby but myself and his Dad due to safety. We also had a secret word to use in case he or I got overwhelmed and needed a break.
It went great, and no one was upset with us!
Boundaries can mean choosing to spend the holiday at home rather than traveling. It can mean negotiating how you spend your time even if you do come. Having a baby changes everything, and truthfully, it takes several months to get into a groove. You’ll reduce a lot of stress if you feel like you can say how you feel and set boundaries on how much you can handle.
Happy Holidays with your New Baby!
Typing those words makes my heart flutter. The holidays are my absolute favorite, and I hope the use of this list can help you have a less stressful season and enjoy your first holidays with your sweet new baby.
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