Are you introducing your baby to family and friends this holiday season? Thanksgiving and the winter holidays present a perfect opportunity to gather with loved ones. But because of COVID, you may not have had the chance to have your baby meet everyone yet. And we can all imagine what happens next: everyone wants to hold baby, give them lots of love, and share in the joy. That can be exhausting for you and the baby. Here are some tips for keeping everyone happy when your newborn meets family and friends.
Manage Everyone’s Expectations When Newborn Meets Friends and Family
Within the first month of bringing baby home, you may not want to have visitors because it can be exhausting. Don’t be afraid to ask guests for help. They can bring a meal, help with household chores, or care for pets and siblings. If you’d rather they spend time with baby, then set them up to care for baby so you can focus on your needs. This might be taking a shower or a nap, eating a meal, or running an errand.
If you are traveling for the holidays, it is also important to manage everyone’s expectations. Think about spreading out meetings or having multiple events with smaller numbers of people, rather than having one large event with lots of friends and family.
Be Aware of Germs
COVID has made us all hyper-aware of germs, but because babies have new immune systems, we should always be careful around them. The minimum hygiene requirements for someone holding baby should be thoroughly washing hands, wearing a mask, and avoiding touching or kissing baby’s face (as hard as that might be for them!). You may also want to limit the exposure to germs carried by younger children who are in daycare or school. Finally, don’t be afraid to ask about family member’s vaccination status. If you are uncomfortable being around someone unvaccinated, it’s OK to say so.
Think About How Your Baby is Going to React
Even if your baby is just a month old, you’ve already learned how they react to different situations. Keep that in mind as you plan meeting family members and friends over the holidays. You should also prioritize your baby’s needs. First, make sure feedings are consistent with how you’ve been doing them at home. Think about the comfort level for you and your friends or family if you need to breastfeed or pump. If others want to feed baby, make sure they are doing so appropriately. Make sure they are holding baby right and giving the right amount of food.
Recognize When Your Baby is Overwhelmed
For a baby who has been at home with one or two primary caregivers for a few months, a room full of people could easily get overwhelming. Use the 5 S’s (swaddle, suck, side, sway and shhh) to reduce external stimulus and calm baby. Also considering creating a relaxation space wherever you are traveling. This can be a space for you, your baby, and partner to relax and get away from the crowd. Consider inviting in one or two people at a time, rather than passing baby around. Bring a portable crib or bassinet to make this space a safe one for baby to sleep in. And, just like feeding times should stay as consistent as possible, try to make nap times consistent as well.
Make an Exit Strategy
One easy way to make sure you and your baby stay relaxed is by setting parameters for the visit ahead of time. If someone is coming over to your house, ask them to come for a specific amount of time like dinner, a walk, or an afternoon nap. Be straightforward with your communication, and don’t be afraid to say, “We are going to get ready for bed. Thanks for coming over and bringing us dinner. Please don’t forget your dish!” If you are traveling, you can also say when you have to leave by or make it clear what times you will be visiting. If you are staying with a family member or friend, you can also say you are going to bed (or put baby to bed and slip away, too).
The holidays with your new baby are a great time to make memories and see people we haven’t seen in a long time. But, the memories are even sweeter when we are as relaxed and healthy as possible.