What’s a new mom to do when all she wants for Christmas is a nap? Plan ahead. Simplify. Reprioritize. And get help. Let’s take it one step at a time, but let’s also remember what matters most: Children are tiny newborns once in a lifetime, but Christmas comes around every year. Get your priorities straight so you can focus on your baby and allow some of the holiday hoopla to fall to the wayside. For instance, don’t waste countless hours writing, stuffing, stamping and mailing holiday cards. Instead, combine your Christmas cards and birth announcements into a single photo card with a pre-printed message like, “Look what Santa brought us!” on the front.
Everyone who receives one, even if it doesn’t arrive until Valentine’s Day, will be delighted. Online photo companies like Shutterfly and Ofoto offer the option of creating a custom picture card, uploading your address list and mailing all of them out for you! Although its tempting to run out and get the standard “Baby’s First Christmas” ornaments, a monogrammed stocking and a pile of over-hyped toys that will “stimulate your newborn’s brain and enhance his reflexes,” realize that even if it is Baby’s first Christmas he has no clue what the holiday means and is just happy to snuggle quietly with you, so don’t overdo it for his sake.
Your relatives will inundate you with baby ornaments and there is nothing your parents or in-laws would love more than to have a stocking made for their new grandbaby, so let them. (If you don’t like it, you can have a new one made next year.) While you’re in the simplifying mood, gracefully bow out of the neighborhood Christmas lights competition this year. Just hang a wreath or put a bow on the mailbox and consider yourself jolly. If putting up a tree seems like an overwhelming task, don’t do it. Most folks have a friend or neighbor who goes crazy for holiday decorating and already put the finishing touches on her house the day after Thanksgiving, so ask your local domestic diva devotee to add her creative flair to your home so you can bathe the baby or go for a walk. Jeannie Casey, certified postpartum doula (http://nashvillechildbirth.com), offers this sage advice: “Stop worrying about coffee stains on the counter or whether you put a wreath on your door.”
When you’re in your final years, she says, you won’t remember the wreath, the gifts you sent or whether you had turkey or ham that year. You’ll remember falling asleep with your baby on your chest or staring at tiny toes in awe. So do the important things and let the everything else go.
Put You and the Baby First
Reprioritizing means putting the needs of yourself and your new baby first. Obstetrician Susan E. Mackey of Women’s Medical Associates of Nashville recommends that new mothers get eight hours of sleep a day. “If you don’t get it, your energy level is low, your stamina is lower, you’ll gain weight more easily and your decision making will be negatively affected,” she warns.” Sleeplessness also adds to the feeling of being overwhelmed. Casey agrees, “You have to re-establish your priorities when you have a new baby. Life is hard going from store to store with a newborn who needs to eat, take naps and have frequent diaper changes. And Mom needs food, drinks and naps, too. If a mother doesn’t take care of herself, she can get stressed out, irritable and depressed — all of which, if you’re breastfeeding, can affect her milk production.” Plenty of rest, food, liquids and quiet time is the recipe for a healthy mother, but infants have immature immune systems and need extra protection around the holidays. Pediatrician Kris Rehm, M.D., of Old Harding Pediatric Group, says, “Having a newborn over the holidays is such a joy, but it may mean that a family needs to stay home to prevent exposing the newborn to viral illnesses that are common at this time of year.” That means forgoing holiday travel until the baby is at least 2 months old and letting someone else brave the stores. As tempting as it may be to get a picture with Santa, it’s probably not a good idea. Santa has had dozens of children on his lap, one of which may have had a cold, flu or stomach bug. Germ protection extends to friends and family, too. Rehm advises, “It’s really important to make sure that anyone who holds the newborn is healthy, because a little cold in an adult can be a serious illness to a newborn. That means the parents need to be vigilant about making sure that all family members with a runny nose or cough steer clear.” Don’t feel guilty asking someone to admire from afar; your primary responsibility is to keep your baby healthy. Strict rules about hand washing are key!
Say Yes to Help
Caring for a baby is a full-time job, and getting through the holidays can be another job in itself, so consider adding an extra pair of hands to your household to make things run more smoothly. You can seek out a professional doula, or, if that’s out of your price range, Casey suggests moms “get to know the teenage girls in your neighborhood and to have one come over after school each day. You can hold the baby on the couch and direct her in putting up decorations or doing laundry. When you feel comfortable with her, she can hold the baby while you nap. The $8 an hour is a great deal compared to professional doula prices. Check around with local church youth groups, too. Some of them perform community service by cleaning homes or doing light yard work for families with new babies. Mackey counsels mothers to, “‘Let others take care of you and let go this year. Ask for help from friends, family and your husband.” Request that visitors bring frozen lasagna or a package of diapers when they come to see the new arrival. Whenever anyone says, “What can I do to help?” ask them to pick up a gallon of milk for you or grab a last minute Christmas gift while they’re at the mall. Most people love to be useful and will gladly help in any way they can … but you have to ask!
The Best Gift’s Already Yours
If you miss out on the caroling, church service or a family feast this year, remember that the holiday celebrates the birth of a baby to poor parents in a stable without an ounce of fanfare, so take heart that your holiday has something in common with the very first Christmas … besides, you’re holding the greatest gift of all. Deborah Bohn is a local mother, fitness trainer, teacher and writer.