Surviving the Holidays with a New Baby
The holidays are looming in the shadows of Halloween just like they do every year. But this year is different. A baby has entered your life, and celebrating the holiday hustle and bustle with a new baby can be overwhelming. A good way to get through the holidays with a new baby in tow is with a plan! What are your expectations going into the holiday season, and how much of a load can your emotional and mental ship hold before it begins to sink? Too much for you, could also be overstimulating for your baby.
Prioritizing What is Important During the Holidays
Stop and think, what is this moment in your life about this holiday season? Is it introducing your newest family member to the family tree? Is it regaining a sense of stability in the home? How do you plan on setting boundaries and implementing them for your loved ones? Boundaries are not only a healthy approach to the holidays, but they are also a necessary tool.
Making a list for keeping your boundaries can help to navigate the uncomfortable situations and conversations that may come up. Supporting the baby by keeping them on their normal routine may be an essential boundary that you want to be implemented around a sea of guests. Perhaps wanting everyone to mask up or sanitize or wash their hands before holding the baby will provide you with peace of mind. Share that! What may seem like little annoyances to others, may very well be imperative to you. That’s okay! Vocalize yourself to those you love, and they will understand…or at the very least respect your wishes.
Letting Go of Holiday Perfection
Speaking of boundaries, rules, and expectations there may be some things that will have to lay by the waste side this time around. If you are used to being the hostess with the mostest, this may be the year that you enjoy the festivities as a guest. Sure it’s tradition, and the show must go on…as it should! Keep in mind overstimulation that can creep up and change the dynamic of the day, for both you and your baby. Reach out to the guests beforehand and let them in on how you are feeling. This is a year that YOU get to make new traditions for your family, and introduce your little one to the family traditions you’ve had for years. Perfect looks different for everyone, and perfect is only defined by you.
What is Overstimulation
Overstimulation is a state of sensory overload. This can be brought on by excessive activity, noise, or information to name a few triggers. In babies, this occurs when the time between naps is prolonged or disrupted. While overstimulation can be missed leading up to, usually there is a crashing point where the baby is crying, arching their back, having red eyes and rubbing them, and refusing food. They are not hungry, they are tired and disorientated.
Effects on an Overstimulated Baby
Once a baby hits that overstimulation point, it’s like death con 5. Retreat, Retreat! Mayday Mayday! There’s no turning back now!!!!…Or is there? When a baby is overstimulated, they don’t know HOW to calm themselves now. Therefore they look for and NEED the solace of a trusted caregiver. The baby’s cries are inconsolable and the baby looks miserable. This affects the baby physically as they may cry until they are blue in the face, cry themselves to sleep, or have developed an umbilical hernia. Prolonged crying spells also neurologically affect the baby as they go into fight or flight mode and shut down emotionally.
Overstimulation can be confused as hunger cues, gas, colic, fussiness, or other ailments. In many instances, an overstimulated baby will have difficulty falling asleep, (aka taking their naps) and will most likely be “weaned” from naps before their bodies are ready for the long stretch of daytime hours; without a physical, mental, and emotional break. Think about it, 4 & 5 year old still have nap time/quiet time in daycares and preschools.
Soothing an Overstimulated Baby
When soothing an overstimulated baby, we want to think about the 5 senses: (sight, sound, smell, touch, and taste) and adhere to each one, one by one. For sight, go to a darkened room or area of the space that you are in. The dark is the same vision that was in the womb, and it also takes away from distractions. Sound is brought in by a nice foundation of noise, be it the white noise of a bathroom fan, an app, a sound machine, or the classic “shushing” by a caregiver. The consistent sound again brings the baby back to the safe space of the womb. The smell sense comes in when we are handing the baby from one person to another in an attempt to soothe the baby. One person and one person only should do the whoosaaw-ing of the baby. Be mindful of any pungent colognes or smells that could be a deterrent. Such as cigarette smoke, heavy perfumes, or room scents.
If the baby is under the age of 3 months and is not rolling yet, the use of a swaddle blanket works wonders for bringing back that closeness of the womb. Almost like a nice big hug. If the baby is over the age of 3 months, the baby may want to be held and rocked to be soothed. The taste sense may come in the form of a comfort nursing session, a bottle, a pacifier, or sucking on their own hands. It’s more about the oral fixation that babies naturally have, and the soothing that comes with it.
Eat, Drink, and Be Merry
The holidays are meant to be celebrated and enjoyed surrounded by those you call your people. Remember that it’s okay to forgo the big shindig for the sake of your sanity. It’s okay to bring grocery store rolls, instead of your homemade dinner rolls this year. Navigating life with a child under 1-year-old is an adventure all its own. Surround yourself with those who bring you joy this holiday season. Let them love on you, and know how to listen to you.