The holidays are often a time when our babies are around more people than what they usually experience.
Auntie sees baby crying, so what does she do? Basically everything within her power to make them laugh.
Tickling, pinching their thighs, kissing their cheeks, making goofy noises in their face, testing out peek-a-boo, picking up or holding (sometimes even directly out of mom’s or dad’s arms without permission). You name it!
Some kiddos might do fine with this. However, for a lot of younger children this obviously is not the way to calm them down. Especially on a day so out of the ordinary for them. And if your child is currently going through a phase of separation anxiety and Auntie is semi-new on their list of people? Well, that can make it even worse.
Regardless of what you think might happen, I would encourage you to have an action plan for intervening during moments like the one mentioned above and reducing overstimulation for your child altogether.
The number one thing you can do to help your kiddo is to make sure that they get their basic needs of food and sleep met before the point of meltdown.
I mean we get cranky when we are tired and hungry. Right?! Why should we expect any less from babies?
If you are going somewhere for the holidays, take snacks in case the food is not ready by the time your child is hungry. If you will be gone during a normal time of sleep, take stuff for them to sleep. Here is a list of what I would suggest you consider taking with you.
a safe sleep space like the pack’n’play
the sound machine or download an app on one of your devices to use
travel blackout curtains or makeshift blackout curtains with painters tape and black garbage bags
anything you use for the sleep routine like books, toys, etc.
sleep sack if your child normally uses one
the baby monitor
If you are hosting at your house, do your best to prioritize your child’s normal schedule for meals and sleep.
During the family holiday celebration, keep an eye out for signs of your child becoming overstimulated.
Some things to look for are zoning out, turning their head away from people when they try to engage, burrowing into your chest, clingy, fussy, etc. And then use the next few tips.
Give your child some time away from all of the noise to decompress.
Here are some suggestions for this.
go for a walk outside
step into a quiet room
provide your child the opportunity for some independent play
Have a plan for what you might say if someone is contributing to your child’s overstimulation.
Not everyone is great at picking up on cues from babies that are basically saying, “Leave me the eff alone!”
Some people are completely oblivious. And others? I am not so sure they really care. They just want to soak in as much baby time they can get.
Do not be afraid of advocating for your child.
The idea of coming up with something to say before it even needs to be said is something that I don't think many people consider. But, oh do they wish they had once the day is done.
Being proactive with this will provide you the confidence you might need in the moment. You might feel uncomfortable telling your elderly aunt that she needs to back off. Ha. But you can do it in a way that is kind.
For example, you might say something like:
“Awe. Looks like Gus Gus is having a hard time with all of this holiday commotion. Auntie, let’s give him some space. He’s just not use to all this noise and interaction.”
Or you might say something like:
"Auntie, would you like to go on a walk with me and Gus Gus?"
This one, if it sounds like a good option for you as well, provides your relative the opportunity to be involved with your child but not directly.
And let's think of one more:
"Oh. It looks like Gus Gus is getting fussy. When this happens, he usually needs some time to himself to decompress. I'm going to take him into the back room for a bit."
Now of course, some people are going to be completely understanding of this while others might get offended. If someone gets upset when you do this, in my humble opinion, it is a them problem. And they are projecting onto you.
While I know these types of interactions can be difficult sometimes, remember your why. My guess is that you are keeping your child's best interest in mind which is more important than your adult relative's ego. Hopefully, this little reminder will prevent or at least minimize the guilt or shame you might feel creeping up.
When you have something in mind to say if needed, it will make it so much easier in the moment.
For more tips on helping your baby throughout the holiday season, check out my free masterclass titled "How to Keep Your Napping Child Well-Rested During the Holidays." Click here to get access.