Baby’s first Christmas is a special time, and it’s understandable that parents want to make it magical for baby. The Christmas tree, the presents, the shiny ornaments, the lights, the food, all the family getting together – wow! However, while these are the things that we all love about Christmas, it can be incredibly overwhelming for a baby, or even a toddler.
My eldest son’s birthday is on Boxing Day, so our house is a whirlwind for not just one, but two full days. I have a fond memory of my (now eight year old) son having a screaming meltdown when he was around two and a half, shouting and crying, ‘No more presents!’ We thought we’d done the right thing by having some presents for both the boys on Boxing Day, so that no one missed out, but it turned out to be complete sensory overload for our toddler.
So with the benefits of hindsight, here’s my top tips for avoiding a meltdown at Christmas:
1. Get your Christmas shopping done early
I know that this is easier said than done, but if you can get your Christmas shopping done and gifts wrapped even a week before the big day, you won’t be frantically running around on Christmas Eve. And I can tell you from experience, that there’s nothing fun about desperately trying to put together an enormous toy after midnight on Christmas Eve! Especially when you know the baby is going to wake up and want a feed when you’ve just managed to get to sleep.
2. Go easy on the pre-Christmas social whirl
Everyone knows that you’ve got a baby, so no one’s going to blame you if you scale back a little on pre-Christmas activities. Overloading your social calendar is going to leave you and your baby tired, frazzled, out of sorts and out of your routine.
3. Ask for help
This is a big one on my list. I see so many mothers struggling to do the whole traditional Christmas thing with all the family around, exhausted and trying to get the roast perfectly timed so that Nana doesn’t drink too much and pass out before dinner is ready. Ask everyone to bring a course. Someone can bring the prawns, someone else can bring the pav. Get your cousin to do the salads. The key here is to admit that you can’t do it all, and rope everyone else in to help out.
4. Keep to baby’s schedule
Babies and toddlers love routine. So if yours go to bed at 7.30, then on Christmas Eve, make sure they’re in bed at 7.30. Hell, I’ve even resorted to changing the clocks when mine were toddlers! That way you can get them in to bed at 6.30, knowing that they’re not going to sleep until 8.00 anyway.
When your baby is ready for a nap, one parent can entertain the guests while the other puts baby down for her sleep. Feed baby on time, bathe her on time, make sure she’s had a bit of sleep and this will go a long way towards some semblance of normality.
5. Too many cuddles
Some babies will happily go to anyone. Other babies only want mum. Some babies will put up with a few cuddles from the family and then they’ve had enough. With so much else going on around them, your baby might just want the security of mum, and really not want to go to Cousin Mildred for a cuddle, even though she’s normally the most peaceable of babies.
Keep the cuddles and changeovers to a minimum, and make sure that mum is nearby to provide some emotional reassurance in the midst of all the Christmas chaos.
6. If baby does have a meltdown …
If your baby or toddler does have a meltdown, remove her to a quiet room. The sensory overload on Christmas Day can get to all of us! Perhaps read a quiet story together, sing a favourite song, or do something calm that you know your baby likes. When she’s more settled, you can take her back.
7. No more presents!
Keep presents to a minimum. I know that this is a tricky one, especially for baby’s first Christmas, and it’s probably more relevant to a toddler, as babies don’t really know what’s going on anyway. Toddlers are generally more interested in the paper and the packaging than they are with the present, at least at first. If your toddler doesn’t want to open any more presents, that’s fine.
Explain to Aunty Jean that your toddler is probably a bit overwhelmed at the moment, and come back to the gift later. If Aunty Jean is a bit touchy, perhaps you could open that gift first and save some of the other gifts for later on.
At the end of a busy day, try to find time to give your baby a relaxing bath, perhaps even a massage if she likes that. A soothing and familiar bed time routine will help baby to fall asleep, and for you to finally get to your much deserved Christmas pudding.
We wish you and your baby a very happy and stress-free holiday!
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