The festive season can be magical; it can also be hard work, overwhelming, and a real challenge for new parents. The wider family may have lots of well meaning advice and it can all become very stressful. Here are some top tips for surviving Christmas.

Seven Steps to Surviving Christmas

1) Take a baby carrier or two!

Using a sling you feel confident with and that your baby already enjoys will help both of you find some togetherness amidst the noise. You are your baby’s safe space; the familiarity and the close contact will help your baby’s brain to feel calm and settled… and you may find the action of putting the sling on reassuring and focusing for yourself. If baby wants to see more of the festivities, try a hip carry!

Some parents and carers find that they don’t enjoy playing “pass the parcel” with their new baby; the sling can be an useful way of keeping a little more control over the situation.

If you have a long car journey and baby hates the stop-start of the vehicle in traffic, could a train trip with a sling and buggy provide a solution?

surviving Christmas

2) Let others hold the baby if you need a break

If you’re happy to let others hold the baby (on your terms), take the opportunity to have a break. This will not have a negative impact on your developing bond; remember that human beings evolved to be part of wider family communities where childcare was communal and there were several adults around for each child (today we think we are dong well if we have one adult caring for five children). Babies remember far more than we think; your baby will not forget you!

3) Go for walks or a change of scenery – fresh air and movement help calm everyone down.

A hubbub can be overwhelming when everyone is already under strain or tired. Your baby’s need for a calmer environment, a nap, or movement matters; little brains are easily overwhelmed. Scientist suggests the optimum speed at which to rock a baby is your slow heartbeat; and this rhythmic movement, or the pace of a gentle walk will be soothing for everyone. As you walk and rock, your breathing will slow, your heart rate will settle. This will have an impact on your child and their own cardiovascular system will mirror your own and everyone will feel better. This instinct to rock/sway/walk with a baby is hardwired into us.

surviving Christmas

Don’t be afraid to use your baby as an “excuse” to meet your own needs for space or fresh air. Babies exist in relationship with their primary caregivers; if you are stressed and anxious, they may pick up on this too. Your needs matter as well.

 4) Remember nothing has to be perfect; be kind to yourself.

Do what works and makes you and baby happy. 

5) Be confident in your informed choices about your parenting and stand your ground kindly.

We know much more these days about how children develop and how to build happy brains. Knowledge and best practice evolves all the time. Help your family to see you are not rejecting how they brought you up. You’re just working with the latest research. This link from Understanding Kids has some very helpful information about coping with the “gift of unsolicited advice!”

6) Repeat “This will pass”, “I’m building a happy brain”, “It will be worth it” endlessly!

These mantras have helped parents all over the world. Talk to your friends, share how you are feeling so they can offer support remotely (and vice versa!) You may well help someone else too, by being honest.

7) Don’t be afraid to make your own traditions for you and your family.

You don’t have to miss out on some of the fun of Christmas, or you can make your own new traditions. There’s no reason why you can’t take your baby to see the Christmas lights in the dark or even to the pub, whatever you want to do. A comfy carrier will help to keep your little ones with you while you make these memories, and they are likely to have a sleep if it is late. Babies are portable and thrive when they are close; that’s how they grow!

surviving Christmas