It’s your first Christmas with your baby. So you want it to be really special, don’t you? Here’s Modern Mum’s guide to making it a happy – and safe – time for all involved.
The First Noel
Baby’s first Christmas can be an exciting time for the whole family, as you
experience the joy of the season through the eyes of an infant. It does not, however, come without its potential pitfalls!
The first decision you need to make is where you’re going to celebrate your first Christmas with the new addition to the family. It’s not unusual for new parents to want to celebrate their first Christmas with a new baby on their own, without the usual large, extended family celebration, and, if that’s your idea of a perfect Christmas, then don’t be afraid to let the rest of your relatives know in advance, so that they can make their own plans and know that you’re doing your own thing.
There is an argument to say that your baby may be too young to understand that it’s even Christmas, let alone be interested in opening presents, but there’s still plenty of fun and excitement to be had by just sharing Christmas Day on your own with your baby without all of the extended family activity.
In your quest to keep family and friends happy it’s also tempting to agree to visit everyone or let everyone come over. The problem is young babies get overstimulated very easily, and too much attention and too many strangers will not only make him cranky and irritable, but affect his sleep patterns as well. Try to keep social dates simple and invite people over for specific times such as when your child is napping, so they get baby free time with you, and then baby time when your child awakes.
Baby’s first Christmas will also mean being pulled in hundreds of directions at Christmas time. If both families are insisting they need to see you, consider having Christmas at yours. The benefits are larger than you may think: Firstly you won’t have to travel with a truck load of baby gear, secondly your child will be happier in his own environment, and thirdly everyone can help you out, whether it’s with cooking or babysitting.
If your husband or partner is part of one of those ‘set in stone’ family traditions, where you all get together for a ‘happy’ get together, then the extended family – in-laws in particular – may not be in favour of the idea of the three of you spending this festive day alone in your own home. Make sure that the two of you present a unified front and explain that you want to have your first Christmas as a family in your own home and that you can always get together on another day in the holidays. Hopefully, they’ll come round to the idea.
If you do want to spend your time with extended family, then there are benefits to be had! For a start, you have plenty of willing hands, who will be happy to share nappy changes and feeding duties, leaving you with the opportunity to have a bit of a rest. This can be particularly helpful if Christmas falls not long after your baby is born. You can also let someone else take responsibility for the cooking and washing up duties!
Your first Christmas will be a very special day. It will also be a more relaxing and pleasant day for you if you manage your expectations. By this, I mean you won’t be able to do all the things you used to do before baby came and your day will inevitably be structured by your baby rather than by you and the family. So, accept that it will be different and work out with your partner what you can realistically do.
Draw up a list of all the things that need to be done before Christmas day and on Christmas day. Prioritise these tasks, then work out between you who does what (remembering that your in-laws can also help out with these tasks). You will want to remember this Christmas for being fun, so balance how much work you’re doing with how much time you’re spending chatting on the sofa and playing with your little one. There is no room for perfection here, so just set yourself the target of being “good enough”. If you’re worried about what your in-laws are expecting then ask your partner to chat with them, letting them know that everyone’s going to help out for dinner for example. Give yourself plenty of time to get the presents and shopping — even getting something every week between now and Christmas. And finally, take lots of photos and videos as, yes, this will be a very special day.
The key here is to plan, and not to panic. Break things down in to little steps rather than seeing them as one un-manageable whole. Planning wise, start writing lists early about the essentials and the desirables. Check with your parents what they will have at their house so that you don’t need to duplicate. If possible, aim to travel at a quiet time so that you don’t sit in traffic. Some parents find that driving at night means that they can do the usual bedtime routine but then put the kids to sleep in the back of the car, while you drive through quiet roads.
While newborn babies are not mobile enough to wreck your Christmas decorations, older babies, especially new crawlers, are attracted by the bright lights, coloured baubles and tinsel, and are therefore at a higher risk of injuring themselves or swallowing something dangerous.
If you’re used to decorating your home for Christmas, then you may need to take a bit of extra care with what you put up and where you put it. Children under one are especially attracted by anything shiny, so keep fragile and breakable objects well out of reach. It might be best to avoid hanging shiny baubles on the lower branches of the tree and watch out for anything that could dangle within easy reach of your baby. Parcels stacked under the tree could also attract curious hands, so it might be an idea to put them higher up on a table. Try fabric or cardboard decorations on your baby’s level and wooden ornaments (though check that these objects are fine to be put in mouths and have no small breakable parts).
When it comes to your first Christmas with your new family, remember to put your needs and those of your baby first. Keep reminding yourself that your baby doesn’t yet understand Christmas, which means it’s not worth piling pressure on yourself to make it perfect. Instead, use the time you and your family have to enjoy being with your baby and enlist the help of relatives, so you can also have some much needed mummy time.
Things to do:
- Start a scrapbook to save mementos such as bows and gift cards from your baby’s first Christmas
- Write a description of the celebration in your child’s baby book so you can read it to him or her in a few years
- Keep a journal and write down your own perceptions of the holiday and special things that you want to remember
- Buy or make a special ornament to commemorate baby’s first Christmas and hang it on the tree
- Take lots of pictures of the baby as he or she absorbs all of the holiday details
- Videotape your family’s celebration so you have a true record of it.