Survive the Holidays with a Newborn: 5 Tips from a Postpartum Doula

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Newborn baby, swaddled, wearing a Santa hat in a basket

The holidays are a hectic time for parents. When you are the parent of a newborn, the stress is multiplied. Here are five tips to survive the holidays with a newborn:

Plan for feeding your newborn during the holidays

Feeding a newborn on a regular day is time consuming and stressful. For the holidays, have a plan for nursing, pumping or preparing formula. If you’re nursing, the increased busyness can lead to less frequent nursing. For this reason, clogged ducts and mastitis are common around the holidays. Knowing this in advance can help you remember to prioritize frequent feeding. Keep baby close so you catch feeding cues (see below). If you’re pumping, set a timer on your phone to remind you when it’s time. If despite your best efforts, you end up with a clogged duct, mastitis, or a drop in milk supply have the number of a Seacoast Lactation Consultant handy.

Bottle feeding families should make sure they are stocked up on formula in case stores are closed on the holidays or their brand is harder to get away from home. You can also make up bottles in advance to have ready when baby needs to eat. If you miss the early feeding cues, this will cut down on the time baby is crying for food. Ready to feed formula, if you can use, may make life easier on the busiest days.

If you’re traveling, make a packing list to ensure you have all your pump and bottle parts and formula with you. Don’t forget other feeding essentials like burp cloths! Check out the CDC’s tips for traveling nursing families.  If you’re bottle feeding and will be going on a plane brush up on the TSA rules about formula and pumped milk.  Communicate with your hosts in advance if you want a special place to nurse or pump or if you need to store human milk or formula in their fridge.

Survive holiday sleep interruptions

Try to maintain your baby’s wake windows as much as possible. If your little one sleeps every two hours, try to keep that generally consistent. The exact timing may be off, but try to sneak in naps before your baby becomes too overstimulated or overtired. If your baby is old enough to have a routine for naps and bedtime, stick to it. When you’re traveling, bring things from home like swaddles, noise machines or strollers to help baby fall asleep. 

Don’t forget the power and ease of car naps. If you’re taking a long car trip, try to schedule drives for when baby should be sleeping. And if all the activity at a holiday party is just too much for your baby, slip out and go for a drive so they can rest. In fact, using “it’s baby’s nap time” as an excuse to slip out of the room when awkward political conversations start is an unexpected bonus of having a newborn at the holidays.

Babywear to survive the holidays with your newborn 

I love babywearing every day of the year for so many reasons. At the holidays it can be a real lifesaver. Having the baby close to you will help you catch their feeding cues. Those reminders to feed will make those holiday nursing problems less likely. And generally keep baby happier. Most babies will nap peacefully in a carrier even if things are chaotic around you. Plus if all those potential germs from relatives who want to kiss your baby are freaking you out, a baby in a carrier makes their cuteness less accessible for affection.

Haven’t mastered babywearing yet? It’s not too late. If you’re shopping for a baby carrier, here are three recommendations from a nurse and lactation consultant. I’ll add that the Ergobaby Embrace is the easiest carrier I’ve found for beginners. If the expenses of the holidays make buying another item prohibitive, try the Piscataqua Babywearers Group and Lending Library. Located at Relief Parenting in Hampton, you can rent a carrier for a month for a very small fee. These experienced babywearers can also help you figure out your carrier if all those straps and buckles are boggling your mind.

Opt out

My twins were born on Thanksgiving day. Obviously, we had no control over what that holiday looked like for our family. When Christmas rolled around a month later, we were still not ready to venture out of our little postpartum cocoon. So we went nowhere and did next to nothing to celebrate that year. You know what? Our family and friends understood.  Maybe yours won’t, but that’s ok. During this season (during every season!), you have permission to do what is right for your family. And making new traditions for smaller families Is really fun! 

Remember, if it’s been less than six or eight weeks since you gave birth, you are still physically healing! Don’t overdo it! To survive the holidays with a newborn, you may need to cut back on elaborate decorations, slim down your holiday card list, send your partner with your older kids to a family party or skip the trip to your parents’ house entirely.  

Granted, when we opted out of the holidays, our twins were our only children so we didn’t have the pressure of making things special for other little ones. But even if you have toddlers or older kiddos in your home, there are traditions you can miss this year or scale back on. The Elf on the Shelf can have the flu (here are some fun ways to incorporate that guy into your traditions, if you’re up for it). Focus on those traditions or elements of the holidays that really matter to you and your immediate family and let go of the rest.

Ask for help 

Always and forever, this is the most important advice I have for parents! Ask for and accept help. That first Christmas we didn’t go anywhere or do anything? A lovely friend delivered us Christmas dinner. Once you’ve decided what your “must-dos” are for the holidays, outsource whatever you can. That might look like buying prepared foods for holiday meals or asking a friend or your doula to help with addressing envelopes or wrapping gifts. 

Bonus tip: ignore all unhelpful advice. Nana wants you to put cereal in the baby’s bottle?  Auntie thinks you should be sleep training your four week old?Your sister-in-law knows if you try this lactation tea you won’t need to combo feed anymore? Smile and move on. You don’t have to say anything at all, but if you feel pressured, a mild “this is working for us,” should do the trick.

Survive the holidays with a newborn? You can do it! Just focus on the baby’s needs and your own. And if things go sideways, remember, the baby won’t remember this anyway!

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