My most memorable holiday seasons didn’t involve expensive presents, exquisite decorations or extravagant meals. I survived on reheated lasagna and takeout, accessorized with burp rags, and spent my time gazing at tiny fingers and toes.
Having a baby over the holidays transforms the season from festive to unforgettable. Sure, it can be overwhelming. But it has perks. Friends and family are likely to have vacation time to spend with you. Winter clothes make comfy, flattering postpartum wear. And future holidays will be laced with memories of baby’s miraculous first weeks. So make the most of your holiday bundle of joy!
Get busy while you can. Holiday tasks can help pass the long late-pregnancy days. Before my first daughter’s birth in early December, the house was sparkly clean, gifts wrapped and cards mailed. I was finishing my third batch of Christmas cookies when I went into labor. Three years later, as we welcomed our second holiday baby, the decorations were still in the basement. Yet my memories are every bit as great. So tackle your to-do list if you can, but don’t stress.
Baby, it’s cold. Babies born in winter are more likely to catch viral illnesses like flu and respiratory syncytial virus, says Dennis Cunningham, M.D., infectious disease specialist at Nationwide Children’s Hospital in Ohio. Insist on healthy habits. Everyone should wash hands with soap and water before touching baby – and get a flu shot and a pertussis booster. Skip big parties and germy public spaces in the early weeks. When out, arm yourself with alcohol-based hand sanitizer.
Pass the perfection. A baby changes everything, so don’t be surprised if your holiday priorities shift. Ease up on the urge to churn out Christmas cards or find the perfect gifts. Keep plans simple and flexible. Relax and enjoy. With baby’s arrival, traditions may change, too. Get advice on tackling shifts in holiday traditions.
Spend smart. Pediatrician visits and hospital fees can pile up, adding strain to an already stressful season. Plan and stick to a budget to keep spending in check.
Ask and receive. Honesty is a new parent’s best policy. When friends and family ask if you need anything, speak up – whether it’s dinner, help around the house or an hour of babysitting so that you can grab a nap and a shower. If they’re set on buying you something, request gift cards to put toward baby essentials.
Manage gift chaos. Presents will threaten to take over. Stash a pad and pen nearby to keep tabs, making it easier to write thank-yous. Keep gift receipts handy, but save any returning or exchanging until after the holidays, when you can take inventory and get it all done at once.
This post was originally published in 2014 and is updated regularly.