For first-time parents especially, baby's first Christmas can feel like a hugely important occasion. Culturally Christmas is a large scale celebration for many and the pressure to make things perfect is commonly felt. This can be amplified when you add a baby into the mix.
Figuring out who to visit, what to buy and how to make the day special can feel overwhelming. Combining this normal pressure with a desire for a picture-perfect first Christmas, that you can look back on fondly, can mean huge amounts of stress as the big day approaches.
For those of us who have experienced and survived our baby's first Christmas's here are some things we wish we knew beforehand.
10 Decorations Can Be A Disaster
At Christmas, many parents are dreaming of our precious babies enjoying the decorations. We have a picture in our heads of a beautiful tree with our baby sleeping peacefully next to it, looking as angelic as the angel on top. Or maybe we envision a slightly older child sitting next to the lights, enraptured by the sight.
I'm here to tell you that this beautiful dream? It's often just that. In reality, babies react entirely differently to decorations. While some do love them and will sit and watch the lights, others get overstimulated and will scream at the sight of an animatronic reindeer. Many more will be so intrigued that they will try and eat everything shiny.
Don't be afraid to cut back or scale down on the decor if required, and make sure older babies especially are always supervised near decorations.
9 Christmas Shopping Is Harder
Navigating shops at Christmas is often a nightmare, especially if you are visiting a city. The crowds and queues are accompanied by lights, music and a feeling of panic. As Christmas gets closer this intensifies, making shopping difficult at the best of times.
The bad news is that babies add a whole new level of chaos. Prams and crowds don't mix and often smaller babies especially can become easily overstimulated by the colors and the noise.
If you're in charge of shopping then planning ahead will relieve a huge amount of stress. For those on maternity leave, midweek, morning shopping can be quieter and the sooner you do it the better.
8 Santa Can Be Scary
Decorations are not the only thing babies react unpredictably towards. For those planning an idyllic grotto visit, you need to know that for many babies Santa can be kind of scary.
Over the years grottos have been packed with children of all ages, many of whom have been incredibly excited until the big moment came. We're unsure if it's the beard, the excitement or just the experience in general but many babies and even older children are terrified of Santa.
If your baby cries in their grotto photo then don't worry, you're not alone. The vast majority of parents have a delightful photo of at least one child screaming at Santa, welcome to the club.
7 Don't Try And Visit Everyone
When it's your baby's first Christmas there's a huge temptation to try and visit everyone. As a parent, you want to make sure that all the grandparents get to share in the special day and that's natural. What it isn't always, is practical.
Unless your Christmas usually involves getting all the grandparents together, or everyone lives close by, often it's just not possible to include everyone. Too much traveling in one day will only result in an exhausted baby and exhausted parents and trust us this isn't fun for anyone. Don't be afraid to compromise.
6 It's Ok To Make New Traditions
One way you can solve some of the issues with who to see and when is by making your own traditions. The first Christmas with a new baby is a great time to establish a new routine that works for you and your family.
It doesn't matter what you did before, now you have a baby you have someone else to consider. This may mean you host Christmas, or you spend the day at home alone, seeing others on the days either side or having them drop round to visit.
If your traditions no longer work for you then change them. Your priority should be to keep the day as enjoyable and stressfree as possible. Compromise is key but this goes both ways. Don't be afraid to make adjustments.
5 Babies Don't Appreciate Gifts
Babies are the most unappreciative gift recipients you'll ever meet, with the possible exception of toddlers given clothing that they hate. All they will do is look at things and possibly try to eat them. Even older babies mostly won't even attempt to open presents, let alone appreciate them.
As such, don't spend huge amounts of money on gifts for babies. All it will do is overwhelm them, especially if they have grandparents who are prone to go overboard. Your baby won't even understand the concept of gifts for a few years so consider putting some money into a savings account instead. This way your gift can be appreciated later.
4 Be Careful With Stockings
If you have stockings in your house then make sure you're careful around your baby. The tradition of stocking at the foot of a bed can be a lovely one but often they can be a hazard.
When we're wrapped up in dreams of a picture-perfect Christmas it's easy to overlook things we're usually vigilant about. Stockings are a perfect example of this, as often they are left in children's rooms without thought.
Consider buying a first Christmas keepsake stocking to display out of reach and fill it simply with an unwrapped age-appropriate soft toy. This way you have a beautiful memento to treasure and your baby is safe and happy.
3 Memories Aren't Always Magical
Christmas, and the holiday season in general, is about memories. Learning to embrace them all, good or bad, will help you to enjoy this time. You'll soon realize that as your child gets older there'll be more than one holiday memory which is far from perfect.
Sickness, tantrums, arguments, chaos, and tears often feature in holiday occasions and no one is immune. Over time you'll look back on these memories and realize they are just part of life. Sometimes they even become an amusing family anecdote.
Take the rough with the smooth and embrace the chaos, it's the best way to get through. Remember a holiday is just a day, it's ok to reschedule your plans.
2 Keep Your Reactions In Check
Children don't remember Christmas for a long time and after that, they only remember very specific parts of it. This may be a favorite toy or it may be that time someone dropped the turkey! The events don't matter so much as how you react to them.
You losing your mind over burnt food, shouting and screaming, won't make a happy memory. However, laughing about the charred veg and making it into a family joke? That's another thing entirely.
If you feel yourself struggling to cope, remove yourself from the situation whenever possible. Calm down and come back when you can see the funny side. Then that time everything went wrong and Christmas lunch ended up being frozen pizza? It becomes a fun adventure, fondly remembered.
1 Remember, This Isn't Your Only Shot
Your baby's first Christmas is just that, the first. There will be so many more chances to do this all again. Learn from the experience, no matter what happens. Traveled too much? Stay home next year. Bought too much? Cut back in the future. Had a disastrous grotto experience? Skip it for a couple of years.
A keepsake memento and one nice photo is plenty to mark the occasion and even the most chaotic of holidays can usually produce that. You don't even have to take a photo of the day itself. As long as you have something to show your child in future then trust us they won't care. Most won't care if you have nothing at all as a memento.
Just enjoy the day as best you can and above all spend time with your child. If you can't see them on the day for whatever reason, then change the day you celebrate. Christmas is what you make it.