This is me in 2002, holding my five-day-old baby, at my grandparents’ house.
It was Easter Sunday, and my husband and I were so excited to spend time with our families and show everyone our new baby girl. We just knew that everyone was just as anxious to meet her as we were to share her. We went to my grandparents’ home for lunch – all of my cousins were there, and my aunts, uncles, and great-grandparents. After that, we headed to my husband’s aunt’s for dinner. Our new little baby was passed from one set of eager arms to another, and eventually returned to me, fussy and probably overdue to eat. I don’t remember when exactly things went downhill for me (or for her), but I do remember crying in a bedroom, trying to nurse my new baby, when neither of us had really gotten the hang of it yet. I was crying, she was crying, and I realized then that this day of holiday visiting was not something that I was ready for, at 5 days postpartum.
I really should have been home, resting, healing, and bonding with my new baby. And if I were doula to my twenty-year-old self, I would have told her exactly that.
But if my baby had been a bit older, then maybe it would have been manageable, especially if I kept these tips in mind:
- Relax! It can be hard to put your feet up when others are bustling around in the kitchen, preparing a meal and pouring drinks, but if you have a new baby, this is your year to sit and be served.
- Ask your partner to help out by keeping your drink refilled. Breastfeeding moms need to drink plenty of water, and it’s easy to forget about drinking when you’re busy chatting with family and distracted by the activity of the day.
- Hold your baby (as much as you want!) If you are eager for a break, it’s fine to let Grandma or other family members take their turns holding your new little bundle, but it’s easiest for you to respond to those early feeding cues if baby is close to you. Don’t let family members walk away with your new baby if you’re not comfortable with it. Some people can be a bit pushy about their request to hold the baby, but remember it’s okay to say no, or even just “not right now.”
- If you’re breastfeeding, make feeding time a priority. If you are able to nurse right where you are at the table or on the couch (with a nursing cover, blanket, or without), then this will be a little easier for you. But especially when mom and baby are still new to breastfeeding, it’s not uncommon to feel a little uncomfortable nursing in front of others, even family members. If you feel more comfortable excusing yourself to a quiet area where you can relax and privately feed your baby, then be sure to do so as often as you need. Attempting to stretch out times between feeds because you don’t want to leave the conversation or get up in the middle of dinner can make things more difficult as baby becomes hungrier and more upset. You may want to consider recruiting another family member, maybe your sister, or favorite cousin, to be your “buddy” and hang out with you while you nurse, so you don’t feel isolated.
- Know your limits. It’s okay to make visits shorter than usual – to arrive late, or leave before desert. Holidays can be exhausting and overwhelming, even when you don’t have a newborn in tow! Be gentle with yourself.
Having a new baby close to a holiday can be challenging, but it also can bring even more meaning and joy to an already special time. Sharing a holiday for the first time with the newest member of your family will be a treasured memory for years to come.