The holiday season is a time for
speeding up slowing down, chaos relaxing, stressing over enjoying time with family and friends. It is often a time we look forward to for most of the year, when we get to partake in new and old traditions, reflect on the past year and take some time for ourselves. Or at least it should be, if we want it to be. Whether this is your first baby or not your first rodeo, having a newborn during the holidays can feel SO different, I get it. You have all these traditions that you look forward to, and expectations. It can be hard to see how you will have the holiday you want and are used to, with a new little one that has already thrown off your usual schedule and is threatening to single-handedly dismantle the holiday season. However, I want you to be able to make the most of it, enjoy it the best you can, and feel seen and heard. Although this may be a difficult season for you, it won’t last forever. And, as always, I aim to help you enjoy the magic of motherhood that you deserve. Here are my 5 tips for surviving thriving with your newborn during this holiday season.
1. Give Others the Gift of Baby Snuggles
Say it with me: “you can’t spoil a newborn!” Newborns are fantastic at napping anywhere and love a good contact nap. Thankfully, this is not an issue for future sleep habits. You can give all the newborn contact naps you want and not worry about how it will affect future sleep. In fact, since sleep begets sleep, ensuring your baby is getting good daytime sleep will increase the likelihood that your little one will have a good night’s sleep. Which, I may be going out on a limb here, but might just be the only gift you want this holiday. It’s also a bonus that more “active” daytime sleep will help your newborn differentiate between day and night. So auctioning off your baby for the gift of baby snuggles is going to be your greatest trick for thriving during the holidays. I mean, who doesn’t love a warm, delicious smelling baby to snuggle? Answer: anyone who hasn’t had said baby attached to them 24/7 for all eternity. So when you have family or friends over, or you are visiting them, and your baby is coming to the end of their 60ish minute wake window, have them wash their hands and cozy up with your babe for a long winter’s nap. This leaves you to take a shower, eat some holiday treats, socialize with some adults, grab a
cup of coffee glass of eggnog, or do pretty much whatever you want. I mean, you could bring your designated baby snuggler an eggnog, but really, that’s going above and beyond.
2. Avoid Overstimulation
Now I know I just said that active daytime sleep was beneficial for your newborn, and that newborns are great at napping just about anywhere, however too much of a good thing is never actually a good thing. (Unless it’s presents. You really can’t have too many presents.) So we want to be careful that we avoid overstimulation. If your baby is (accidentally, of course) being overstimulated then it will be difficult for them to fall asleep. They will become overtired, and then get their second wind and be straight-up wired. We really don’t want this to happen. As we all know, the holidays can spell more chaos than usual. This is a given. So with this in mind, be cognizant of how much stimulation your little one is getting during each wake window. You might need to remove your baby from the hustle and bustle as you near the end of their hour wake window. Find a quiet place, without bright lights or screens, and hang out there for the remainder of the wake window. If you are out of the house, don’t forget to bring your portable white noise machine and car seat cover. These will help tune out external stimulation while you are on the go.
3. Catch Those Sleepy Cues
It can be super easy to lose track of time or stray from your usual schedule during the very busy holiday season. But preventing overtiredness and getting your newborn to sleep when they start showing sleepy cues will pay off big time. You will end up spending less time trying to get your baby to sleep, meaning more time for partaking in the holiday festivities. Now, these sleepy cues can be a little tricky to catch, and many parents mistakenly wait for the tired cues before putting their baby down. So here’s my trick: watch the clock (aim for around a 60 minute wake window) and also pay attention to your baby’s cues. When they start acting bored, staring off into the distance, giving a subtle yawn during your well rehearsed rendition of Rockin’ Around The Christmas Tree, and/or have a reddish hue to their eyebrows/eyelids, it’s time to get them to sleep. And if your little one is not great at napping in their own sleep space, and you’re not quite ready to step away from the merriment, refer to Tip #1: Give other’s the gift of baby snuggles.
4. Don’t Forget Your Bag of Calming Tricks
When you’re visiting other people, or are hosting, and your newborn is
acting like an angry elf having a difficult time calming, I have several calming tricks for you to try that are absolute magic!
First, try shushing. This isn’t the not-well-received shushing you give your partner when they talk too loudly during naptime, this is a calming shushing that your baby will love. If they are being loud you can give them a loud “sh sh shhh” however once they are quiet, a nice gentle “sh sh shhh” can be super calming.
When you (or your delegated family member/friend) are giving your newborn a contact nap, your baby may find it more comfortable to be in your lap, but on their stomach or side. Yes, of course “back is best” however if you are supervising and awake, then your baby can be on their side or stomach on your lap. My favorite is to bend my legs and have my baby on their stomach, on my thighs, facing away from me, this way I can rock them back and forth with my legs.
Never underestimate the value of a swing. Whether you have a baby swing, a yoga ball, or just a good ol’ fashion body workout, most babies respond really well to a gentle swinging/bouncing motion. This is also a great opportunity to pass around the hand sanitizer and see who in your family has the most stamina for baby bouncing. (Spoiler alert: you don’t actually care, but they don’t need to know that).
The eyebrow stroke is another one of my favorites. When you are bouncing or rocking your baby, gently stroke along their eyebrows, or from the top of their forehead down to their nose. Babies find this very soothing, and it also encourages them to close their eyes!
And don’t forget your baby wearing apparatus of choice. This is a win-win-win as your baby is snuggled into you which is calming, you get to have your hands free for the necessary holiday drink sipping and snacking, and as a bonus your little one may just fall asleep for a contact nap!
5. Give Yourself the Gift of Letting Go (Just A Little)
The bottom line here is that holidays don’t last forever. They are a short but important period of time that you don’t want to miss out on. So it’s ok if your baby’s schedule is thrown off a little, or they don’t quite get their usual amount of sleep because of all the holiday escapades. This will not ruin them as sleepers forever, I promise. That being said, it’s also ok if you don’t win Holiday Parent of the Year. Give yourself permission to do half (or none!) of the holiday baking you usually do, to say no to some invitations, and just have your kids wrap their own presents this year (kidding, of course!) But seriously, do what you need to do to stay sane and enjoy this time of year- you deserve it! Your children won’t remember the details of whether the cookies were store bought or homemade, whether they made gingerbread houses with you or watched holiday movies with you. What they are going to remember and cherish is the time they got to spend with you. It’s like that saying “if Mama ain’t happy, nobody is happy”; take care of yourself, set reasonable holiday expectations for yourself, and your children (and you!) will end up having a wonderful holiday season.
No matter what holiday(s) you are celebrating, I hope they are filled with all the family, friends, eggnog and sleep that you desire! And if you would like some extra support with getting great newborn sleep, check out my newborn products where you can grab my newborn guide pack, my newborn video course and a range of consultation options for individualized support. Happy holidays and happy sleeping!