The holidays are almost here. The next months will be filled with twinkling lights, delicious food and the gathering of friends and family. This is a joyous time, but it can be a stressful one, too. If someone in your life has recently become a parent, they likely have a few extra concerns on their minds. From keeping the baby healthy to figuring out their new normal, they have a lot going on.
I know you love them and want the absolute best for them and the baby. It's just that sometimes when there's a new baby, it's hard to remember what we should or shouldn't do; because #allthesnuggles.
Don't worry, we've got you.
Here are 10 rules to remember when spending time with newborns for the holidays:
1. Wash your hands
The holidays are smack in the middle of the cold and flu season. And new babies are particularly susceptible to illnesses—they likely haven't had vaccines yet, and their tiny immune systems are just firing up.
Combine both of these factors, and you get parents who are anxious about germs.
Reduce their stress level by washing your hands (without them having to ask). A simple, "let me just wash my hands before I pick up the baby" will show them that you are aware of the concern and doing your part—and that means they'll be more willing to give you plenty of baby-snuggle time.
And now to be the real Scrooge: if you're sick, please stay home. Passing an infection to an adult is one thing, but it can genuinely be life-threatening to a newborn.
2. Don't kiss the baby
Pediatricians tell new parents not to let other people kiss their newborns. Kissing is one of the easiest ways to pass an illness on to a baby (even when you don't have any symptoms yet). The parents are likely feeling awkward about this—they do not want to ask you not to kiss the baby. So, do them a favor and say, "I won't kiss them, I promise." If they do ask or need to remind you (we get it, the baby is SO kissable!), please try not to be offended. It's not you at all.
3. Respect the sleep schedule—yes, it really is that important
It can be tempting to want to throw schedules and routines to the wind during the holidays. But for parents of new babies, it may not be a possibility. These new parents know all too well that skipping that nap and delaying bedtime (by even 20 minutes) can wreak total havoc on their baby's sleep and the parents' well-being.
Support new parents as they hold firm to their routine. Don't ask them to "relax" or "break the rules just this once." Instead, offer to help them in their routine! Maybe you can assist with the baby's bath, or even take a middle of the night feeding. Instant family hero.
4. Don't comment on how she feeds her baby
The way a mama chooses to feed her baby is a personal, often very involved decision. Trust that she has made the best decision for her baby, herself and her family, and avoid commenting. If she brings it up, by all means, engage—please just do so without criticizing.
Here are a few comments to avoid:
- "Why aren't you breastfeeding?"
- "You're not going to breastfeed until they're a toddler, are you?"
- "Are you sure you're making enough milk? The baby looks small."
Here are a few great comments (if she brings it up first):
- "Oh, my baby had colic too! We loved this brand of bottles for that."
- "Where would you feel most comfortable feeding the baby? There's a comfy chair right here, or you can use my bedroom upstairs."
5. Anticipate last-minute changes
Babies and unpredictability go hand-in-hand. Feeds, diaper blow-outs, fussiness and the inevitable "wait, I thought you packed the diaper bag" moments are bound to happen.
Keep in mind that there's a good chance that new parents will be late, or have to leave early; or both. They may also need to escape for bits of time throughout the event. Remember that this is stressful for a new parent, so do your best to respond with understanding and grace. They will appreciate your compassion.
6. Consider your gifts
I know, I KNOW! There is nothing more fun than shopping for a new baby. By all means, go for it, with a few considerations.
- Check her registry. If the baby was born recently, there's a good chance there are still unpurchased items on the registry. Check there first so you can be sure to get a gift that they really need.
- Size-up. You are not the only person who has been excited to shop for this new baby! She may have drawers full of clothing with the tags still on them. If you want to buy sweet baby clothes, buy a few sizes too big so that the baby can grow into them.
- Ask. Surprises are such fun, but new parents are often pretty strapped for cash—there may be something they really need but can't afford. So instead of going for that totally-adorable-but-not-super-necessary blanket (they already have five of them, by the way), call the new parents up and ask what they might need.
- Consider the parents. Let's be honest, the baby has no idea when you've given them a gift. Do you know who does? The parents. Instead of buying the baby something, what about getting the parents something that they may not treat themselves to? Let them know you're thinking about them too, and that they are still important (albeit not as cute as the baby).
7. Avoid commenting on what she's eating
If mama is breastfeeding, you might find that you are inadvertently paying more attention to what she is eating. It's because you love her and the baby, I get it! But, do your best not to comment.
There's actually very little scientific evidence that says women need to restrict their diet in any way while breastfeeding. If there is a severe allergy or issue, she might need to, but she'll be well-aware of what she needs to change. This goes for alcohol consumption, too. Let her enjoy her meal—and then bring her seconds. Favorite relative status granted.
8. Share the baby
Are you tempted to retreat into the corner with the baby all night long? We hear you! But, remember that everyone there wants to love on the baby, too, so make sure you're giving everyone their turn.
Psst: And then tell her that you want to babysit soon. She gets an evening out, and you get an evening of uninterrupted solo time with the baby.
9. Give the new baby + new mama some space
Some new mamas may want to be in a constant cocoon of love and support. Others may feel a bit overstimulated and crave some downtime. If you notice that the new mom and her baby have separated from the group, you can definitely check on them (in fact, it would be a nice gesture to do so). But then, give them some space.
The new mom may need a few moments of quiet, or she may be trying to give her baby a break from the noise and stimulation. They'll come back to join you soon, and be recharged and ready for more attention.
10. Remember her
A good friend spent her first Christmas as a mama at her in-laws. She had a great time, but she went upstairs to nurse the baby, and when she came back down, she found that they had opened almost all of the presents without her.
No one wants to eat cold food and delaying present opening can be tough. But remember that new moms often feel invisible, so do what you can to make sure the new mom feels included. Wait a few extra minutes so that she can be involved with as much of the festivity as possible. Ask her questions about her, not just the baby.
Let her know that she's still important, as a person, not just the baby's mom.