My first Christmas as a mum was spent in the NICU. Needless to say it was less than ideal, and not what I had imagined for my daughter and I. Even without a NICU stay, the Christmas overwhelm can be felt more than usual for mums with new bubs.
Pressure to attend family events, pass the baby around, and prepare like you’re not sleep deprived and looking after a tiny human can make it a difficult day.
You are deserving of a lovely day and making it special and memorable with your new family addition, so here are my top tips for making it a great day for you.
The first step is to understand and set your own boundaries.
Having health boundaries means you feel valued, comfortable and respected in situations and relationships. This means you’re happier and feel empowered to make the choices that are right for you. It’s less likely to lead to miscommunication, resentment and conflict later on, so extremely important in relationships.
How do you know what your boundaries are? Have a think about your values and what is important to you. Set aside some time to make a list or chat to your partner about it. Have a think about your own priorities and obligations for festive catch ups and think about your own needs in this context.
Do you want to leave events early because you’d like a rest? Do you want some private time with your baby to breastfeed? These are both really valid and healthy boundaries. Have a think about what else might be important to you so you can plan ahead for the day.
A really important part of enacting your boundaries is to be able to communicate them assertively. This will allow you to get your point across confidently, without feeling like you’re being rude.
Being assertive usually means making “I statements”, for example:
“I would like to leave at 5 pm. It’s important that we have some time to rest”
“I am noticing that baby is unsettled and needs a feed, so I am going to cuddle her for a moment”.
Be specific, and remember that you are communicating your wants, needs, feelings and opinions. It’s important to you, so there is no need to “pad it out” or justify it.
Sometimes non-verbal communication can be just as powerful or even more-so. Don’t want your baby to be passed around on Christmas day? Consider baby wearing! It avoids you having the same conversation multiple times and may even stop people from asking if baby is content snuggled up to mum.
Responding to criticism
Anyone who has had a baby has noticed that all of a sudden everyone is an expert and more than willing to tell you how to raise your baby!
It is very common for new mums to feel overwhelmed at the amount of conflicting advice from well-meaning loved ones, and this can be particularly tricky at Christmas time when all of the experts are in the room with you!
Most mums report criticism in regards to baby sleep, feeding and settling. It’s really common for a responsive mum to be told they are spoiling their baby or “making a rod for their own back” because they are cuddling and soothing their baby. Remember, you know your baby best and you are parenting according to your values, so it’s important to be able to respond to criticism.
You are able to say you disagree, that the comment is upsetting or that you are parenting in a way that is responsive to your baby’s needs. Watch your non-verbal communications when doing this – keep your tone of voice calm and maintain good eye contact.
Self-compassion is extremely important with a new baby, particularly at Christmas time. Perhaps you’re used to having the tree done, Christmas lights around the house, home baked gingerbread houses and perfectly wrapped presents. Recognise that this year, Christmas will look different … and that’s ok!
Practising self-compassion means you are being kind to yourself in the way you behave and the way you think. Tell yourself that this year you may not be as prepared or organised as you would like to be, however, you’ve done your best and will still have a lovely and memorable day. If you’re struggling to think compassionately, ask yourself
“how would I respond to a friend who was having these thoughts?”
“how can I view this in a way that is more realistic and kinder?”
If you want to behave more compassionately to yourself, making time for self-soothing activities is helpful. What are some things that you enjoy doing that you find relaxing? How can you make time for these things with a baby in your life? Can someone help out with your baby? Or can you do them with your baby? For example, you can listen to some music you enjoy or watch your favourite tv show, even while nap-trapped!
Have a think about how you can be more compassionate to self so that you can enjoy this special time with your new family.
A modified version was originally published by One for Women here.