The holiday season can be an exciting time to be with family, especially with a new addition! I know many people are just excited to gather this year! There’s excitement to share family traditions, create new family memories, and introduce baby to relatives and friends they may have never met. It’s fun to see baby’s expressions and response to people and the decorations (and maybe the food too!).
The holiday season can also be a not-so-exciting time with family with a new baby! Grandma telling that really embarrassing story from the 3rd grade. Your cousin’s baby who was born at the same time as your own baby is developmentally doing things that your baby does not even seem to be considering at this point. Your sister has taken over and you feel like you have to ask to hold your own baby. Your mom may be comparing what you did as a baby to what your baby is doing now. It can be frustrating handling the comparison, unsolicited advice, and opinions you did not ask for.
Infant feeding can be a HOT topic for this as people tend to have strong opinions. Bottle vs Breast. Breastmilk vs formula. Baby led weaning vs purees. Pacifier vs no pacifier. Feeding in public vs wearing a cover.
So how can you manage all these feelings, expectations, and advice? Here are 3 ways:
HAVE REALISTIC EXPECTATIONS – Having realistic expectations is practicing good self-care! Expect that you are going to hear unwanted, unsolicited advice and know that it is just that…unwanted, unsolicited. (On that note, comparison will steal your joy so just skip it.) Have realistic expectations about getting ready, commutes, gifts, the dish you need to bring, etc and as rule of thumb, always give yourself extra time! Do what you can ahead of time. You could offer to bring drinks rather than a covered dish or store-bought cupcakes on a fancy serving dish. There is no need to have hair wash day on the day of a special event either! Order gifts online or send digital gift cards. If you are rushing around because you over committed the day of an event, you will likely be stressed. This is probably going to stress the baby too, lead you to forget something, be late, allow room for resentment and frustrations, and may ruin the event before it even starts! Make sure your expectations of others, and yourself, are realistic.
INTRODUCING THE COMPLIMENT SANDWICH – This is one of my favorites tactics for responding to unwanted opinions! Basically, you give the person a compliment. You follow that up with what you do not want them to say/do. Then you end it with another compliment. You can include helpful actions as well. It may look like this, “I love how you hold baby and how calm she is, but we are not feeding baby solids yet. Please do not offer him/her anymore of your food. Could you go help grandma hold him/her since he/she responds to you so well?” Try it!
KNOW YOUR WHY! Remember, you can do it your own way!!! There is no “right” way….just the “right” way for you! Knowing your WHY though is helpful so that you can communicate your (realistic) expectations clearly with family. Recognize that it may be different from what they did but that does not make what they did “wrong.” It does not hurt to have evidence-based resources to share for questioning and doubtful supporters.
Sometimes the hustle and bustle of the holidays can impact baby’s feeding. Consider the following when thinking about holiday events to ensure that the baby continues to feel well during these times:
1) Try to keep routines when possible. Do not head to a holiday lunch with family at baby’s regular naptime. Messing with baby’s schedule (if they have one) can lead to a cranky baby and a frustrated parent(s)! You can suggest a different time that works easier for you in situations where appropriate. You can also let the host know ahead of time that you will be late if needed. Maybe you go without the baby and get childcare. It is also okay to say no.
2) Ask for help. What a perfect opportunity to ask for help with family and friends around! This is also helpful so that you do not feel like you are missing out of conversations or fun because you are caring for the baby’s needs. Remember people generally want to help-they just do not know how so do not be afraid to ask! They can hold the baby for you to eat, help you prepare for feeding by getting what you need or changing diapers, feed solids, or even a bottle. You may want to think ahead of time about the tasks you are comfortable with others taking on.
3) Take the baby to a quiet space to feed. It may be hard for your baby to focus on feeding and feeding well with all the commotion! A quiet space may be helpful. Reach out to the host prior and secure a separate space for feeding like a bedroom. You can always go back out to your car if needed. Try to do this at times so that you do not feel like you are missing out (cause FOMO is for real). For example, if you are eating at 6, at 5:30, try to go feed the baby. You can always “top off” to hopefully help you get through your mealtime.
4) If you are breastfeeding, consider how you will feed the baby around family and friends. Are you comfortable breastfeeding in front of others? Would you feel more comfortable with a cover? Remember the quiet space! Maybe it would be better to bring bottles. One of my favorite tricks is to get there early and feed the baby in the car before going inside.
5) Make sure you have everything you need with you. You may want to start packing the diaper bag a day or two ahead so that you can remember ALL. THE. THINGS. You could also start a list now in your phone and add items when you remember things you may need. Having what you need, having it ready, will help those feedings be uneventful.
I hope that these tips help you to have a joyful holiday season! I would love to have you join me at our infant feeding group Wednesday’s at 5:00 where we talk more about topics like this and all things infant feeding related. Share this post on social media and comment with your own favorite tips!