It’s your baby’s first Thanksgiving!
Your baby will be the center of attention, being gushed over in every corner of the room by relatives who’ve been waiting months to see your little protégé.
It’s a combination of excitement and nervousness. It’s your debut as a parent, and you want everything to go perfectly.
Every parent has felt that anticipation…and eventually watched it crumble under tears, frustration, and lots of unsolicited advice.
Ugh, it’s a hard fall. One that I’ve certainly felt.
Since I’ve always got yo back here at Incredible Infant, today we’re going to discuss how to prepare yourself (and your baby) for this big occasion.
Not Thinking Thru the In-Laws
You are about to perform your first bit of parenting in front of the whole family.
Feel defensive yet?
Don’t walk through those festively-decorated doors unprepared!
Take a few minutes to talk through your family with your spouse about how you are going to maintain your authority as parents, while still respectfully keeping the family peace.
Here are some articles that can help that conversation:
- Which Type of Grandparent Are You Dealing With?
- The 4-Step Formula for Handling Difficult Grandparents
- How to Handle Family Members Parenting Your Child
Those articles will help you create a game plan early on, avoiding those awkward “I can’t believe she just said that” moments that can so quickly derail a happy occasion.
Not Considering Baby’s Personality
I’m sure this is probably not a huge surprise to you, but your baby has a unique personality. A personality that drives a lot of his behaviors.
Understanding the personality-factor is key to avoiding several hours of unsoothable screams.
Some babies have more outgoing personalities that can handle being passed around the room to 15 different strangers smiling and touching and trying to make him laugh.
Other babies can’t. (Or can only handle it for short periods of time.)
Take some time to consider how your child handles new groups of people, and then use that information to set guidelines on how to help him stay within his temperamental limits.
- When he meets people at the grocery store, does he smile and engage with them, or try to snuggle closer to you?
- Will he allow other people to touch or pick him up? If so, do you have to be within a certain distance for him to feel comfortable?
- How does he handle large groups of people at the mall or at church? Does it energize him (kicking legs, waving arms)? Or does it shut him down?
If your child is sensitive to large groups, consider arriving earlier than everyone else so you can introduce him to people in smaller, more manageable groups.
Also, ask for a quiet room that you can take him if you start to see he’s beginning to reach his limits. Stepping out for a few minutes in a “sanctuary room” can prevent a massive meltdown!
I understand not every baby is a World Champion Napper. Add that to a new environment, new faces, and lots of stimluation…naps may be a challenge.
Still, it’s worth it to try hard to help him rest. Even if he doesn’t actually sleep, an hour of quiet time will give his brain a chance to rest.
Trust me, if you try to keep your baby awake for 8 hours, you’re going to have a miserable night.
Bring the pack and play, and a noisemaker, and some travel-easy blackout curtains. Then be prepared to rock, pat, or bounce, anything to help your infant shut off the overstimulation and get some needed rest.
This is not the day to be a stickler for the routine. With all the hubbub in the house, he may need a nap sooner than normal, so use his baby cues to help you spot when it’s time to go down for a nap.
If you’re worried you’ll miss those cues, here’s a cheat sheet I often use with our Super Sleeper Coaching clients to help them spot when it’s time to start putting baby down for a nap.
Not Feeding Smartly
If you slop down the Thanksgiving Feast in your baby’s tray and let him dive in, you may trigger some extra gas or intestinal issues you’ll regret at 1 o’clock the next morning.
Not all foods are baby-safe foods! Here’s a baby Thanksgiving guide to know which items on the Feasting Table need to be avoided.
If you prefer to feed your baby packaged baby food instead, pick up some special pouch foods like this Pumpkin Apple Peach Cinnamon, for an extra holiday feasting treat!
Overlooking Photo Ops
Whether that’s snapping pictures of the cousins playing with your baby or Grandparents cuddling, you’ll want to make sure you get some great shots for your yearly photobook.
Here are a couple of adorable outfits to capture the moment!
I remember one year (I think it was with Elena) I had failed to realize that this introverted 8 month old child was going to comfort suck pretty much the entire weekend.
As a result, I ran out of formula and diapers, forcing my husband to drive 10 miles to the nearest town and cruise around looking for an open Walgreens while I tried to comfort an increasingly distraught baby girl.
I was emotionally drained and exhausted, and everyone chimed in to “help” with suggestions and ideas, making me feel incompetent and ashamed. (That was my own pride showing there, they all had good intentions.)
Learn from my mistake! Overpack!
- A good portable high chair (like this one)
- Extra large bibs to cover that adorable outfit
- A noisemaker to drown out the rest of the house
- extra set of pajamas/clothes
- extra diapers
- extra formula or pumped milk
- diaper rash cream
- Gripe water for gas or baby probiotics
- Engaging-yet-safe baby toys to keep baby entertained
Babies are highly attuned to their parent’s emotions. Especially moms. If you are high-strung and stressed when you arrive, expect your child to reflect those emotions.
Remind yourself, as you are pulling up the driveway, of a few important truths:
YOU are this child’s loving parent.
You know this child better than anyone else.
You can be gracious to those who want to help,
but your Mom-Esteem does not lie in whether or not
they approve of the choices you make.
That said, sometimes veteran parents have advice that can actually help! Accepting their suggestions doesn’t make you less of a mother, it makes you humble enough to receive help when you need it. And that’s a good thing.
Never feel bad for stepping out, or driving around, or taking whatever time you need to make baby’s first Thanksgiving a positive experience for everyone. (You included!)
I’m sure for many of you reading this, this isn’t your first family rodeo.
What suggestions would you add to make baby’s first Thanksgiving enjoyable for the whole family?
Meet Heather Taylor
Heather is the Chief Encouragement Officer here at Incredible Infant and has been writing and encouraging parents online since 2007. She's certified in baby sleep coaching (yes, that's a real thing), has served as an Expert Parenting Panelist for numerous events, and has been a featured writer on blogs like DaveRamsey.com, SimpleKids.net, My Kid's Adventures, Cafe Mom, and others. If it's 2am and you're desperate to read SOMETHING, click here for all her darkest secrets, including why she really shouldn't be allowed to blog.