Having a baby over the holidays transforms the season from merely festive to utterly unforgettable. Sure, it can be exhausting and overwhelming. But it comes with built-in advantages. Friends and family are likely to have vacation time to spend with you. Winter clothes make comfy and flattering postpartum wear. And future holiday celebrations will always be laced with memories of baby’s miraculous first weeks.
Here’s how parents expecting a bundle of holiday joy this month can make the most of this special season.
Celebrate your way
Caring for a newborn may leave you too drained to carry out your favorite holiday rituals, whether they involve decorating gingerbread houses, volunteering or making the perfect potato pancakes. It’s normal to feel disappointed, but skipping a cherished tradition for a year doesn’t mean abandoning it forever.
When you’re in new-baby mode, holiday celebrations should be simple and flexible. After our second daughter’s December birth, many of our regular holiday traditions went out the window. So one night, I filled thermoses with steaming hot chocolate while my husband loaded the kids in the car for an impromptu tour of our neighborhood’s holiday lights. Both kids dozed off and we enjoyed some much-needed adult conversation. It’s one of our favorite memories of that extremely busy season.
Baby, it’s cold outside
According to infectious disease specialists, parents of holiday newborns should take extra precautions to keep their infants healthy. Babies born during the winter months are more likely to catch a viral illness such as influenza and respiratory syncytial virus (RSV), so insist on healthy habits from those around you.
Parents, siblings and guests should wash hands with soap and water before touching baby. Everyone in the family should get a flu shot and a pertussis (whooping cough) booster. Skip big parties and germy public spaces during the early postpartum weeks. When you can’t stay home, arm yourself with alcohol-based hand sanitizer and limit the number of people who touch and hold baby.
Pediatrician visits and hospital fees can pile up, adding financial strain to an already expensive time period. Plan and stick to a holiday budget to keep spending in check. This is good practice for future years, when you’ll be juggling birthday expenses and holiday costs at the same time.
Ask and you shall receive
Honesty is a new parent’s best policy, especially near the holidays. When friends and family ask if you need anything, speak up and tell them what you could really use, whether it’s dinner, help around the house or an hour of babysitting so that you can grab a nap and a shower. If they’re set on buying you something, request gift cards to put toward baby essentials.
Manage gift chaos
Between new-baby gifts and holiday presents, packages will threaten to take over your already-crowded living space. Stash a pad and pen nearby to jot down who gives what, to make it easier to write thank-you notes later on. Keep gift receipts handy, but save any returning or exchanging until after the holidays, when you can take inventory of gifts and get it all done at once, after the shopping rush.
Eat and be merry
One of the best parts about having a holiday baby? You’re free to enjoy the tastes of the season without pregnancy-induced heartburn or a full-grown baby crowding your stomach. And you’ve got months to go before swimsuit season!
No matter how carefully you prepare, your holiday baby will probably throw you a few curveballs. In my experience, it’s a near-certainty that your new bundle will scream during a long-awaited holiday party, spit up on Grandma and have a diaper blowout in a carefully selected photo-op outfit. So stock up on wipes, keep your camera nearby and get ready for your most exhausting, amazing, unforgettable holiday season yet.
Malia Jacobson is a freelance writer and the mom of three, including two “holiday babies.”