The holiday season is fast approaching and for moms, that often means a lot of different things than it used to before we became parents. It might mean making decisions around traditions that place value on “good” boys and girls, or seeing relatives that you see less often who question some of your parenting choices. It also may mean a bit of travel and over stimulation for our little ones because let’s face it, the holidays can be overwhelming for us as adults, let alone babies! Today we’re talking through these four topics to shed some light on our take on all of them and hopefully make the holidays a bit easier for all of you.
Let’s start with some traditions! While we know things like Santa and Elf on the Shelf can be a lot of fun for our little ones and can add some extra magic to this time of year, we don’t love that they’re often used to manage behaviour. The idea that a child is judged for being “good” or “bad” and as a result will or will not receive gifts seems a little unnecessary. We believe all children are good, they’re just also immature. A child under the age of 5 does not do something they shouldn’t intentionally, they just don’t have the mixed feelings or impulse control to stop themselves, especially when they’re acting out of an unmet need like hunger, tiredness, or needing connection. When we shift our view of our children to being immature and intentionally misbehaving, we find it difficult to place the expectation of “goodness” on them all the time. In fact, it’s just simply unrealistic to expect that babies and toddlers will never let their impulses get the best of them.
We also don’t love the use of these external “watchdogs” so to speak, because it shifts away from the relationship we have with our children. If a child is doing something because they want a gift from Santa, what happens when the holidays end? Where does our influence go if they’re being reminded constantly that being “good” means a gift and being “bad” means coal right now? Don’t we lose some of our power to parent in the New Year when there’s nothing to bribe them with? We still keep some of these traditions in our homes, we just do them for the fun of it all and leave the “have you been a good boy” out of it. We also interject if family, friends, or strangers ask these questions and remind them that all children are good. We need to protect the unconditionality of our relationships with our babies.
Next, some family gatherings may have family members asking you ridiculous questions like “why are you still breastfeeding?!”, or saying things like “if you don’t sleep train you’re never going to sleep again” or even “you’re spoiling them by holding them so much!” This unwanted commentary may make you feel a little bit judged or even cause you to question the way you’ve chosen to parent, but today we want to remind you that most of the people saying these things just simply don’t know any better. In a lot of cases, they raised their children in a time when the information available warned against spoiling a child through too much affection, which we now know is not possible to do. You don’t owe anyone an explanation for how you’ve chosen to parent, you can simply say you’re doing it because you want to and it’s what feels right for you as a parent.
We also know that families often travel around the holidays and that can cause a bit trouble when it comes to your little one’s sleep. Know that this is absolutely normal. We as adults sleep best at home, so it’s normal that our babies also sleep better at home too. If you’re traveling, try your best to allow your baby to get comfortable in the sleep space before asking them to sleep in it. This may look like allowing them to play in the sleep space during the day with you close by so they can gain comfort and familiarity before we ask them to let go and fall asleep in a strange place, even if we’re right beside them.
Finally, the holidays can be A LOT on babies. They might be meeting people for the first time, they might be in a louder environment, there might be a lot of visual stimulation from gifts, people, and decorations, and it might just be a little overwhelming for them. So what can we do for our little ones during these times? First, allow them to stick to their village of attachment. If you’re visiting with people your baby is unfamiliar with, let it be okay for them to stay close to the people they are familiar with. We find it so funny that we expect babies to be adaptable to all new people and settings when we as adults also need a bit of time to warm up to new places and people. Allow your baby or toddler the time and space to venture toward new people on their own time. Next, pass the food, not the baby. Your baby does not need to be passed around. It’s okay for you to say no to a request from someone to hold your baby if you feel like that’s not what’s best for your child in that moment. If you are someone who has a harder time with boundaries and saying no, we’ve been there. A carrier is an easy way to keep baby close that usually sends a clear message that they’re not going anywhere.
We also want to really attune to our little ones and watch for when things get to be a bit too much for them. If you can tell your little one is getting a little overstimulated, take the time to change their environment for a bit. Retreat to a quieter room for a bit of quiet play and connection. Read books, feed, cuddle, do a puzzle, or whatever you enjoy doing with your child in a calmer space. This allows them to come back to their home base (you!), and recollect themselves before joining the fun again. This can also be really helpful to do right before bed. Spend an extra 20 minutes or so in quiet play before beginning to wind down for sleep to help combat some of those effects of overstimulation.
We know the holidays can be stressful, but they can also be a lot of fun. We hope that these tips help ease some of the stress and that you all enjoy your holiday season this year!