Ah, it’s the holiday season: Family and friends coming together, everyone sharing a meal, and all of us reflecting on what we are most thankful for. Great, right?
Except that you’ve just had a new baby, so it’s more like: Family and friends passing around your new baby, giving unsolicited advice and probably overstimulating your baby so you end up with a cranky, overtired kiddo while you try not to burn your turkey or think about all of the dishes you’ll have to do later.
Does that sound about right? It doesn’t have to be this way!
With a little bit of planning, you can enjoy Thanksgiving with your new little bundle of joy and stop dreading what should be a wonderful time of year. Here are a few tips to help you survive your first Thanksgiving with a new baby:
1. Avoid Hosting: This will probably be an easy one for the non-cooking, non-hostesses among us. But for you overachievers out there, please consider not hosting. You’ll already have your hands full with your new baby, fielding questions from family members, and having to keep grabby friends and family in check. Do you really need to be responsible for cooking an entire feast, making sure everyone is comfortable, and dealing with the mess afterwards? We didn’t think so. But since we know some of you just can’t help but try and do it all, that brings us to number 2…
2. Ask for Help: If you must try to host, please ask for help. Have someone minding the potatoes. Put another person on dish duty. Better yet, insist that guests each bring a dish so you’re not responsible for the entire meal. Trust us, people are more than happy to bring a dish if you’re hosting. Hosting is a task in and of itself; there’s no need to make it harder. Assign tasks and turn your Turkey Day into a potluck. You might just find that your holiday is far more enjoyable when you don’t have so many moving pieces to your day.
3. Use a Carrier: Family and friends are great. Babies are cute. Everyone will be clamoring to hold your little one. However, a baby’s immune system is still very fragile, and all the new people can mean lots of new germs. Even worse, Thanksgiving falls right in the middle of cold and flu season. While it can be a little uncomfortable to tell people to back off when it comes to your kiddo, you can make it easier on yourself by wearing your baby in a carrier. Everyone will still be able to see the baby and interact, but they’ll be far less likely to ask to hold or play with your little one if they’re strapped to you. Even better, you’ll have free hands to go about your day.
4. Be Ready for Unsolicited Advice: People mean well, don’t they? But there’s always going to be someone questioning the choices you’ve made for your baby and offering advice about how they would do things. And with your friends and family all in one place, you’ll have it coming from all directions. For the sake of your sanity, prepare yourself for fielding questions and commentary, and maybe come up with a short answer to put the talk to rest like, “Interesting,” or “Thanks so much for your input.” This will keep you sane throughout the day and help to avoid family bickering when everyone should be enjoying each other’s company. Understand that this will probably happen, find a way to brush it off, and remember, no matter what anyone says to you, you’re doing great, Momma.
5. Blame It on the Doctor: Is Grandma trying to feed sweet potato casserole to your little one because “that’s how we did it,” or is Grandpa trying to keep you from putting baby down for a nap because he “kept the kids up all day so they’d sleep at night?” Rather than start an argument, blame it on the doctor. Tell them the doctor said absolutely no solid foods until six months. Say that baby is allergic to dairy. Perhaps sweet potatoes make the baby very sick. Maybe the pediatrician said that the baby needs three naps a day. Family members are far less likely to argue with you if it’s “Doctor’s orders.” It’s much easier than having to explain that you’ve chosen baby-led feeding and only feed baby one ingredient at a time to avoid allergic reactions or explaining your sleep training regimen. When all else fails, a medical reason will do just fine.
6. Keep Visits Short: Whether you’re hosting or visiting, be sure to set boundaries. All-day holiday marathon visits may have worked before baby, but not so much now. Be sure to let guests know when your hosting duties start and end, so you have time to decompress and to avoid too much stimulation for your new baby. If you’re visiting, make sure to let your host know your time constraints and be polite. Holidays are a lot on both you and your baby. Don’t be afraid to keep your holiday time short so you can enjoy and partake in festivities, but still have time to adjust and wind down.
7. Follow Your Baby’s Cues: Avoid winding up in the above Not-So-Thankful photo. You know your baby best. If you know your baby will need naps throughout the day, plan to stick to that schedule. If you’re not hosting, be sure to bring what you need and speak to your host ahead of time about designating a space for baby to sleep. If your baby seems overstimulated, have an exit strategy. Friends and family might be eager to spend time with baby, but you are the one who will have to deal with a cranky, overtired, or overstimulated baby once the festivities have ended.
There you have it. Our wish for you is that your first Thanksgiving with your new baby is a memorable one, filled with friends, family, and laughter instead of stressing. With a bit of planning, some boundaries, and a little help, you too can kick back and enjoy this wonderful time of year with your little one. There is much to be grateful for, Mommas. Don’t be afraid to ask for help and do what you need to do to make this holiday fun and enjoyable for yourselves. You deserve it!