How to better understand your baby’s first Christmas and holiday season.
The family, friends, gifts, laughter and sometimes tears that come with Christmas are something we’re all accustomed too. But it’s all very new for our babies. Amidst the twinkling lights, bells and colourful wrapping paper, they’re completely new to everything.
The predictable daily pattern of life can go missing at this time of the year. Those gentle mid morning cuddles before sleep, the quiet hum of the washing machine and other anticipated daily rhythms are all disrupted during the Christmas and holiday season.
We’re busier than normal, with planning shopping, parties and festivities. Then there's beach holidays and house guests – it’s easy to not realise the baby is experiencing a massive upheaval.
We see friends and family, often for the first time in 12 months, and our babies have absolutely no idea who all the strangers are - strangers who want cuddles and smiles. Your baby will learn that these people are part of that safe place we call 'family', but for now, they are all new people and expereinces.
We want to show off our new family with pride, but for some reason the baby who we’ve dressed in special clothes behaves completely out of character. A baby who is often calm, content and smiling, becomes a grizzling, miserable, crying bundle of unhappiness.
'Tis the season.
So what to do?
How can you help your baby from becoming overwhelmed?
Factor in some quiet time
Find time for cuddles with mum and dad, and other caregivers your baby is comfortable with, i.e. the people who feel, look and smell familiar.
Monitor your baby closely
Notice if the smiles are less forthcoming or their brow is furrowing and their body is becoming tense. When you see your baby isn’t relaxed or is struggling, make an excuse to give them a cuddle. A great tactic is to say you think it’s time for a nappy change – not many will deny you that pleasure. You can then take your baby away to a quiet place, cuddle and reconnect, so they feel the familiar sense of security. And of course change the nappy if you feel the urge as well.
Try to stay calm
Because if your baby is becoming agitated, they need you as their ‘rock’ – calm and loving. If necessary, take a few deep, soothing breaths to calm yourself so you can help your baby feel safe and secure.
Find a safe space
If you’re away from home and see your baby is looking tired, find somewhere quiet and secure for sleep. Or if someone is cuddling your baby to sleep, that's fine because whatever it takes to keep your baby calm and comfortable is what matters in these environments.
This is not a good time of year to rigidly stick to routines. The upheaval in the daily routine requires understanding and flexibility - let them sleep when they’re tired. But, although it’s important to not impose an unrealistic routine, try to maintain as much consistency and predictability as possible. All easier said than done.
How to manage the barrage of advice
We see a lot of friends and family at this time of year, and everyone wants to make you life easier, so they offer tips for what worked for them as a parents. Sometimes they actually tell you outright how to parent.
If you’re in a crowd of others and everyone is offering parenting advice, just ‘smile and wave’ - be gracious, thank them and tell them it sounds like a good idea. Of course you don’t have to give it another thought but by responding in this manner you don’t need to defend your parenting choices and style.
It saves arguments and ill feeling, and most of all, it preserves your precious energy.
Don’t forget that all your baby wants in this world is you. As parents, you’re the most important people in your baby’s life. Even if it’s all very new, you are exactly who and what your baby needs and wants, now and always.
Wishing you fun and happiness during this busy social time of the year, and remember that your baby needs you to contain them emotionally so they feel the joy or Christmas and the holiday season.
Author: Helen Stevens. RN. RM. MCHN. Manager of Clinical Services, Education and Research.
Parent Infant Consultants. 0411880720.