12 ways to prepare for baby's first Christmas
Are you ready for your baby's first Christmas? Lizzie Catt shares her top tips for coping with the festive season when you have children.
Remember the Time Before Children, when the way you celebrated Christmas was totally up to you? Having babies changes this forever. After your baby's first Christmas, the festive season will never be the same again – and thank goodness. Here’s how it all shapes up with little people on the scene.
1. Get the chocolate advent calander
As everyone knows, the Christmas period officially begins with an Advent calendar – and most of us will end up buying our children the ones stuffed with cheap chocolate. So you must prepare to spend the remaining 24 days attempting to protect said calendar, explaining to a perplexed toddler that they have to wait until tomorrow for the next chocolate, then finding it demolished after you turned your back for 0.5 seconds.
Elin, mum to Astrid, five and Freya, two months, says, ‘I spent ages planning items for a homemade present Advent calendar, only for Astrid to take all 25 presents down and stick them under the tree, saying she wanted to open them on Christmas Day, then having a paddy until we agreed to get her a £1 chocolate calendar.’
And the moral is? Give them what they want. And get one for yourself.
2. Keep a box of cards and stamps by the door
Perhaps you half-heartedly swapped cards with work colleagues and friends before you had kids, or thought the internet generation could get away with posting an ironic Father Christmas meme on Facebook.
But there’s something about having a reasonably permanent address and a baby that makes people want to send you Christmas cards. If you’re disorganised, keep a box of cards and stamps by the front door and write replies as they arrive. And enjoy it while you can – it won’t be long until friends start including annual newsletters and you’ll also be expected to compile a witty, informative yet modest family bulletin each year.
And the moral is? You can’t fight it. Buy some cards and get stuck in.
3. Prepare for travel
Work winds down, presents are wrapped – time to hit the road. Because missioning along the motorway in the dark and rain to family gatherings is all part of the Christmas fun, right? ‘We stopped at a grotty service station to give the baby a break from the car seat,’ says Catherine, mum to Stella, 14 months.
‘She’d been fast asleep but as soon as we lifted her out, she unleashed a terrible poo that went through her cute Christmas sleepsuit from ankle to neck. Back in the car, she screamed for nearly an hour. The only thing that soothed her was repeated renditions of Old MacDonald until we thought we’d both gone mad.’
And the moral is? Preparation is key. Plan stops, bring treats for them and you, don’t be afraid to use the iPad as a backseat nanny, and consider a cheeky overnight stay in a cheap hotel to break the journey.
4. Don't expect the cute Christmas baby outfit to stay on, or clean
Early in December is the time for buying cute Christmas baby outfits. Because let’s face it – browsing adorable little Christmas pudding costumes and showing off a chubby-cheeked pixie on Instagram beats trying to think of a present for your boring cousin. Just don’t expect your little one to share in the enthusiasm.
Debbie is mum to Teddy, ten months, and she found that he really wasn’t up for modelling his Father Christmas outfit last year. ‘The hat came off in under a second, and then he cried until he was back in his usual sleepsuit,’ she says. ‘I just didn’t have the heart to take any photos – so that’s £15 I’ll never get back!’
And the moral is? Christmas babies are adorable, but don’t expect the outfit to stay on, or clean, for more than five minutes.
5. Santa can be pretty scary when you're little
Around 15 December, grotto FOMO will set in. You planned a quiet trip to see Garden Centre Santa, but those Facebook pics of other people’s kids beaming in a fake snow-blasted wonderland have you considering selling a kidney to bag a ticket for the nearest Christmas spectacular.
But kids are not always on board. Sally, mum to Milo, six and Evie, four, reports, ‘When Milo was two, we took him on a Christmas steam train ride. All the other kids were telling Father Christmas they wanted nice things like Lego but when Milo was asked he said, “I’m going to poo on Santa.” And Evie hates Santa. We left her in Elf School at Centrer Parcs so we could go to the spa, but had to come back early because Father Christmas showed up and she was terrified.
And the moral is? Dear old Santa can be pretty scary when you’re little.
6. Stay at home
Post-children, it’s only a matter of time before your usual Christmas host suggests that perhaps it might be simpler, you know, for you, if you ‘did’ Christmas this year...and every year thereafter. And just like that, the feast of scoffing and lounging turns into a mass-catering mission.
It starts with a gentle browse of Nigella and Delia, then progresses through a smug online shop that arrives with 47 substitute items, to you pin-balling around the supermarket aisles shouting, ‘How can there be no parsnips on December the nineteenth? December the nineteenth! Argh!’ at nobody in particular, dragging an out-of-control trolley through an overcrowded car park, before finally spending Christmas Day sweating over a mountain of carrots and potatoes, trying not to say uncharitable things to the tipsy guests who saunter into the kitchen offering cooking tips half an hour before you’re due to dish up.
And the moral is? The way Christmas is commercialised sets a bad example to the children, so just stay at home with an oven-ready turkey crown.
7. It may take a few years to get into santa-mode
The desire to create magic and wonder for our little people is irresistible. Writing letters to Santa and putting out a mince pie and carrot are old-school pleasures, and now the build-up can last for the whole of December thanks to The Elf On The Shelf, an odd little dolly who gets up to all sorts of high jinks when the kids are in bed.
Just remember to send him back to the North Pole on Christmas Eve... Sara, mum to Luke, seven and Leo, five, cringes when she remembers, ‘Luke found the Elf On The Shelf having a holiday in a cupboard last July. I explained that sometimes Santa forgets to collect him and promised to post him back to Lapland. Now I can’t find him so I’m hoping they’re not going to run into each other again.’
And the moral is? It will take a few years of parenthood to switch into well-practised Santa mode and there are bound to be slipups along the way. Same goes for the tooth fairy.
8. Take turns with big nights out
Two weeks before C-Day and while parties might not be quite as wild as they used to be, mince pies with the NCT crew can still turn into a boozy affair. ‘My husband and I got a babysitter for a rare night out together at our work Christmas party and drank far more than we meant to,’ says Sarah, mum to Rocky, five and Ava, three. ‘We were woken at 5.30am by our then-toddler wanting a “tocklit” from his “clalender”. ‘His innocent little face made us feel so guilty that we vowed we’d take turns with the big nights out and sleep it off in the spare room until the kids are old enough to get their own breakfast!’
And the moral is? Sure you can have fun, but just make sure somebody’s got your back the next day.
9. Don't be heartbroken if they're poorly
You know it’s almost turkey time when the germs strike. When you have kids, your own particular Christmas miracle is a lack of snot, scabs and fevers – and you can bet your last chocolate coin that they’ll pick something up just in time to throw all your carefully laid plans into jeopardy.
My daughter’s first Christmas was distinguished by sleep deprivation, Calpol and mucus, which I thought was bad enough until the following year when her brother, weeks old and only recently recovered from jaundice, broke out in chicken pox on Christmas Eve. With children, nothing shouts, ‘It’s Chriiiiistmaaaas!’ quite like a trip to the walk-in clinic.
And the moral is? Don’t be heartbroken if the germ fairy strikes. It’s not a total disaster if they’re poorly, and they’ll probably still enjoy things.
10. There's no need to spend loads
Despite sniggering at spendthrift parent friends Before Kids, once shopping fever bites, it becomes horribly irresistible to squander precious money on Christmassy plastic crap and themed clothes that kids will only be able to wear for three weeks.
‘I couldn’t resist splurging on my baby's first Christmas,’ says Amy, mum to Danny, four. ‘The next year, I told myself he’d really be able to enjoy the day, and the year after that I thought, well, this might be the first year he remembers – which is what I told myself the following year, too! Now he’s old enough to issue me with a list of demands, I wish that I’d saved the money while I still could.’
And the moral is? There’s no need to spend loads but if you do, enjoy the moment; you can always eBay things they don’t like.
11. Kids don't care if your wrapping's wonky
It’s possible, of course, that all the gifts will be wrapped, the kids tucked up and you’re curled up on the sofa with a small glass of sherry watching White Christmas. Or... perhaps you won’t.
'I’ve never been very organised at Christmas but since I’ve had kids it’s got out of control,’ says Lucie, mum to Samuel, three. ‘When he was a baby and teething, I’d left myself a few hours to wrap presents. But Sammy wouldn’t settle and screamed for hours – I didn’t even get started on the wrapping till 2am. Then he was wide awake again at 5am – it was a long day...’
And the moral is? Kids mean chaos. So don’t beat yourself up if the wrapping’s wonky and your baubles don’t match. Because quite frankly they don’t care.
12. Embrace the chaos
Finally the day arrives and yep, even if they’re streaming with snot and you’ve only had two hours sleep, there’s nothing quite like the kick you get watching them tearing into their stocking, then realising there are more resents under the tree. Being allowed sugar, being cooed over by adoring aunts, ditching nap time, showing off their new party clothes then taking them off to run around in a vest is all part of the fun.
No wonder kids love Christmas so much.
And the moral is? The joy’s in putting on a silly hat, embracing the chaos of having a baby at Christmas and a lovely day with your family.