The holidays are almost here! Which is really exciting but can also be overwhelming if you have a baby. The holidays mean family gatherings which add a lot of new things for you to navigate. How do you protect baby from germs during family visits? What do you do about your baby’s schedule during Christmas parties? And how do you handle breastfeeding during the holidays? Don’t worry, I’m answering all of those questions plus giving you a lot of tips for handling holiday family gatherings with your baby!
Navigating Holiday Family Gatherings With Baby
As far as I’m concerned, the actual act of traveling isn’t the difficult part about traveling with kids for the holidays. The difficult part is all the craziness that starts when you get there.
I don’t know about you, but my kid thrives on a schedule. And honestly, most children do. It’s actually a normal childhood trait.
Now think about traveling for the holidays, you bring your child to a new place with new people and take them off their normal schedule. Hello chaos!
Let me say, I absolutely love family holidays. Getting together with the whole family for Thanksgiving or Christmas is something that truly warms my heart. But, we have so many family holidays to go to it gets absolutely crazy.
So, there’s celebrations with my family and my husband’s family. Then, we celebrate with extended families on both my parents’ and his parents’ sides. So that makes 6 gatherings for each holiday. That’s overwhelming for an adult, so just imagine how crazy it is for a little kid.
Add on, we have gigantic families. Suddenly, you have a million faces staring at you, many that you don’t recognize. Can you imagine how that feels as a small child?
I learned really early on with B that he’s not much for crowds. In big groups of people he goes really quiet and reserved. Then, he’s a hot mess when he gets back to a place where he feels comfortable. Guess what that results in? A kid that screams a lot at me (his safe place) after being at big gatherings.
Suffice to say, it can be pretty tough to take your kiddo to family holidays. That certainly doesn’t mean I’m saying don’t do it. I’m just saying, have realistic expectations and do your best to help your families understand the expectations as well. For example, three gatherings in one day, not a good idea.
As a person who has been there (a lot), I know how tough it is to deal with all the pressure to be at every gathering. When it’s just you (and it’s way easier to travel) your family wants you there, but there isn’t this crazy amount of pressure. Add a child to the mix, and suddenly everyone obsessively needs you at all the gatherings.
Yes, when you become a parent your family is way more into your kid than you. It’s just a fact of life.
But here’s the thing friends, you have to put your child first. It’s your job as a parent. Does it matter if you go to one gathering that throws things off? No. But you need to know where the limit is. I always think, if he’s going to be so miserable that he cries the whole time and doesn’t want anyone near him anyway, it doesn’t really benefit anyone for us to be there.
I’ve found that there is always a way to make family time enjoyable for everyone and comfortable for your child. Unfortunately, when B was 2 months old, we had three Christmas’ in one day with my hubby’s side of the family. Plus, we were supposed to leave the next day to drive 5 hours for a Christmas on my side of the family.
Can anyone say EEK? Yeah, I was totally overwhelmed by the idea of taking my two month old to that many events in one day.
So, we had to choose two. But we didn’t want to miss out on seeing everyone from the Christmas we missed. So we set up a time to go see my husband’s grandma on a different day. I know we didn’t get to see everyone, and that’s not ideal. But, we were able to balance between keeping our child comfortable and seeing as many family members as possible.
How To Avoid Germs During Family Visits With Baby
Family gatherings can also be overwhelming when you have a small baby because of all the hands that will want to hold them. I totally get that babies are adorable and everyone wants to be near them. But, I’m also a medical professional and my kid was born in October (hello flu and RSV!)
My recommendation? Wear your baby in a carrier while you are at the gathering. For small babies I love the solly baby wrap, and as they get a bit bigger the Ergobaby baby carrier is great. People are much less likely to touch or try to hold a baby that is attached to you.
Plus, your baby will be much more comfortable snuggled up to you. Then, if you so choose you can take baby out for a short time to allow a few people to hold them (and I give you full license to be a crazy mom with hand sanitizer!)
Breastfeeding During Holiday Gatherings
I’m just going to be honest, this is a topic that gave me huge anxiety as a new mom. B was exclusively breastfed and refused to take a bottle. I attempted to give him bottles once during a family gathering and ended up with mastitis, so I can confidently say I won’t make that mistake again.
For me, it was way more intimidating to breastfeed around extended family than to be around strangers. So, when we were headed home for the holidays (and 6 family gatherings) I was pretty freaked out.
Luckily, it wasn’t nearly as bad as I expected and I was able to find a few things that worked really well for me.
If there is a private place to breastfeed, use it. My husband’s aunt was hosting the first Christmas gathering that we went to with B. Luckily, she was really awesome and offered a spare bedroom for me to use when I needed to nurse B. Not only did it make me more comfortable, but it was easier for B. He’s a super distracted eater and does much better in a quiet environment.
Also, your baby may become very overwhelmed by all the noise and commotion during a holiday gathering. Going somewhere quiet to breastfeed allows your baby to have some time to relax so they don’t become highly stressed.
Use a cover if it makes you more comfortable. If you are going to have to nurse in the same room as other people, you can use a cover. At least this way you can be more discreet about breastfeeding. I’m a big fan of the milk snob cover or a simple aden + anais swaddle blanket as a cover. Both work well and are breathable so your baby doesn’t get too warm (so they won’t throw the cover off and show everything!)
Breastfeed on a normal schedule. Your best bet is to keep your schedule as close to normal as possible. Speaking from experience, it’s really difficult to get a starving baby to latch properly. So, stick with a normal schedule so your baby is calm and not overly hungry when you attempt to feed them. It will be a quicker and more pleasant experience for both of you.
Stay relaxed. Your baby will certainly feed off of your emotions. If you are freaking out, baby will have trouble nursing and it all goes down hill from there. So take a few deep breaths and keep yourself as calm as possible.
If you are stressing about navigating all the new aspects of the holidays with a baby, you’re not alone. But, there are things you can do to make it easier. Make sure you go in prepared and put the needs of baby first. Then, everything else will fall into place. Enjoy your holiday celebrations!