Juggling the Joys of Christmas with the Responsibilities of a Newborn
The arrival of a new baby is a joyous occasion, but it can also be a time of great stress and upheaval. This is especially true if the baby is born around Christmas time, when families are already feeling the pressure of Christmas preparations and heightened expectations.
For new mums, the festive period can be a particularly challenging time. We are often expected to do all of the cooking, cleaning, and hosting, on top of caring for this new baby. This can be overwhelming and exhausting, especially if we are still recovering from childbirth ourselves.
It is important for new mums/ new parents to set boundaries with family and friends during the festive season. Easier said than done sometimes! But honestly, it is better to have a healthy mum and baby (physically and mentally) rather than saying yes to stuff just to please family and friends. It is possible to say NO in a kind and loving way. Sometimes this might come as a shock to the recipient, especially if they are used to you saying yes normally. But it is not our job to 'make Aunty Joan happy'. It is our job to raise this tiny new human and care for their needs as well as our own, first. Aunt Joan will still be there another day. This can mean delicately navigating the social expectations, saying no to requests that you feel you cannot or do not want to do. It is also important to communicate your needs to your partner, so they can be on the same page and can act as a gateway between you and other family members / friends.
Prioritising the New Baby and Mum's own Recovery
The most important thing for new mums to focus on during the holidays is their new baby and their own health and well-being. If you are reading this as a family member or friend of someone with a new baby this Christmas: Offer to help practically, like cleaning, popping washing on or delivering warm meals. Without the expectations of baby cuddles! Offer to take out older siblings for an hour, stock up their freezer with home cooked goodies or gift takeaway vouchers.
If you are reading this as the new or expectant mum: Take all the help offered. Say yes to help and no to intrusions. If the idea of seeing people in those early days is too overwhelming then suggest alternatives if asked for a few weeks or months down the line. Be honest with people that love you. True friends will understand and will want to support you.
Allow plenty of time just you and the baby to bond, connect and to heal. In other cultures around the world, a birth mum has 30-45 days housebound with the new baby with no interruptions. Family members take care of all the other responsibilities so she can focus on the new baby. We need more of that sort of care here in the UK.
Tips for Juggling Christmas and a Newborn
Here are a few tips for juggling Christmas and a newborn:
- Set realistic expectations. Don't try to do everything yourself. Ask for help from your partner, family, and friends.
- Communicate with your partner. Let each other know what you need and how you're feeling.
- Take breaks when you need them. Don't be afraid to ask for help or to take time away from the festivities if you are with others.
- Don't be afraid to say no. It's okay to say no to requests that you can't or don't want to do.
- Prioritise your new baby and your own health and well-being.
Remember, it is okay to take things slow and to enjoy this precious time with your new baby. The most important thing is to focus on your family and making memories that will last a lifetime.
- Plan ahead. As much as possible, try to plan your the time in advance. This will help to reduce stress and make sure that you have time for everything you want to do. For example: My youngest was born just before Christmas (during Covid) so there was no support around from family members. We also already had 2 young children so pretending Christmas wasn't happening wasn't really possible! One thing I did do to help was to freeze as much of Christmas dinner as I could in advance. All the veg was chopped and frozen. The potatoes were part baked and frozen alongside the stuffing and all the trimmings. On Christmas Day we just popped everything in the oven and let it cook with minimal effort. We also kept Christmas as just us, although Covid ensured that happened anyway! I also planned some easy craft activities for the older children to do at home so they didn't feel like they were missing out on favourite festive activities too.
- Make time for traditions. Take some time to enjoy your favourite festive traditions with your new baby. This will help to create special memories that you will cherish for years to come. This might be as simple as reading a festive story or taking a walk or drive around the local houses to see all the wonderful lights.
- Don't be afraid to ask for help. If you're feeling overwhelmed, don't be afraid to ask for help from your partner, family, or friends. There is no shame in asking for help, and it can make a big difference in your stress levels.
- Take care of yourself. Make sure you are eating healthy, getting enough sleep (not always easy with a new baby!) Go to bed early so you are rested enough to cope with the night feeds. It is a season and will pass! But most of all, be kind to yourself. You do not need to do everything. You do not need to please everyone. You are doing an awesome job mama!
Those of you who have already done the 'First Christmas' season, what are your tips? What do you wish you had done differently? What worked well for you?
Share with our new parents below.