The holiday season (which includes Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hanukah, Kwanzaa, Winter Solstice, and New Years) is a joyful and chaotic time for well, everyone—but especially families! There’s parties, gifts, holiday activities, and so much more to enjoy (and stress about) from November through January. If you have a new baby, you’re likely wondering just how to navigate this special time of year with your little one and keep your sanity intact. As postpartum doulas, we’re here to help you do just that!
We enlisted our team of parent experts for tips on surviving the holidays—from boundaries to breastfeeding and bottles and much more.
Here’s how to survive the holidays as a new parent.
Tips for New Parents for the Holidays
“YOU are the one who gets to decide how your family spends holidays, how to celebrate, and how much time is spent where. If you’re up for a road trip, plan for extra time, pack light, and go for it! If just the thought of that stresses you out, opt for a cozy, low-key celebration at home in whichever way you see fit: takeout n pjs? Memorable! Quiet home-cooked meal with just your immediate family? Perfect! Lots of people will have opinions, on how you should spend your time (particularly relatives 😉 ), but remember, there is no wrong answer as long as it feels right for you. Modeling boundaries is hands down the best gift you can give your child(ren).” —Lexi Tabor, Major care postpartum doula, CLSC, Cleveland, OH
“The holidays are joyous and exciting, but all the fun and frenzy can easily overwhelm little ones and parents alike! Finding moments and spaces with low stimulation can be helpful for nursing or bottle feeding, but also for nap times or diaper changes. Personal time and space for some parental self care will be essential as well!” —Lana Mihaiyu, Major Care postpartum doula, IBCLC in training and mama, San Diego, CA
“Let go of perfection, micromanaging, and trying to force life into an image. Take extra time to get ready. Allow yourself to be in the moment and enjoy what is happening right then.” —Kymba, mom and RN, New Mexico
“Please, please, please allow yourself to take it down a notch (or 10) over the holiday season. Skip hosting, say no to anything you don’t want to do, and/or buy store-bought foods and treats. It can be tough to skip a year of making your favorite traditional recipes or packaging up whatever you’re most “known” for, but this is a season to rest as much as possible.”—Mandy Major PCD, postpartum doula and founder of Major Care, Madison, CT
“Lists, lists, and more lists! When you are not wrangling everyone out the door or getting things in order if you are hosting and have that spare quiet moment, write down a list of everything you need to bring, do, and all, write it down and then make sure you are checking it off as you get things together. Then, when car is loaded or everything is together, run through the checklist again to make sure you have everything you need. There’s a reason why Santa makes these lists–they are a HUGE lifesaver.”—Michelle Valiukenas, mom of two, one angel, one living, Executive Director and Co-Founder, The Colette Louise Tisdahl Foundation, Ilinois
“It’s definitely OK to stay up late to give yourself that you time you’re not getting during the day. Sleep is obviously important, but don’t beat yourself up for engaging in revenge bedtime procrastination. I make sure I get a couple good TV shows going as the holidays start so I have a fun grown-up thing to look forward to at the end of the day. If you have kids older than 2, try a 5 minute Happy Time session with them, using Happypillar (available on in the Apple App Store.) I found when doing them regularly I had way more patience and empathy for my child, and in return they also somehow had more patience and frustration tolerance themselves. It made for a very happy Hannukah for our family!”—Sam Gardner, mom of two and CEO and co-founder of Happypillar, Austin, TX
“Give yourself grace! You’re going to be on a new and different schedule which can be difficult for your little one to adjust to. That’s okay! Remind yourself that you’re simply taking it one step at a time and breathe. No matter what happens, there’s no need to put too much pressure on yourself or your little one to be perfect.”—Brya Johnson, Major care postpartum doula and mom of one, St. Louis, MO
“Keep this holiday season simple and let family and friends know your plans are subject to change, you have a newborn! Getting clear about what you want your holiday experience to be is important prior to reaching out to those you will celebrate with. Be realistic about what you will have time for and your energy level and openly communicate your needs with all parties involved. Don’t feel like cooking? Order food this year. Maybe hosting would be easier, think through things like prepping the house for visitors, ways visitors can help, do you fill comfortable excusing yourself to take a nap if one is needed, etc. With a little planning and flexibility you can enjoy the holiday season and make some amazing memories with loved ones.”—Kristen Lucas, Mom of two, postpartum doula, and & baby sleep coach, Austin, TX
“My suggestion is to have a couple of go-to phrases that you can use if you encounter resistance to or questioning of your plans or parenting…which can be common when you’re in big groups of people you don’t normally see, extended family! Some examples: “I know you want to hold him, but we’re doing just immediate family this year because RSV is so prevalent right now. Thank you for understanding.” “Thanks for your thoughts. I know you really care about us. We’ve made our decision on ___(sleep/feeding/whatever!) and won’t be changing our minds at this time.” Carrie, full-spectrum doula, certified breastfeeding specialist, and Director of Community and Doula Services at Major Care, Austin, TX