My daughter is an October baby, so by our first Christmas together, she was just over 2 months old. Christmas Eve and Christmas Day were relatively low-key (in my opinion): we went to dinner and church on Christmas Eve. On Christmas Day we spent a quiet morning and afternoon at home, just my husband, daughter and I. For the evening meal, we went to my in-laws where my daughter nursed, saw some extended family and slept in our arms. She was happy throughout.
On Boxing Day, the next day, all hell broke loose! We were at home in a calm, peaceful environment, but she was crying hysterically! Seriously EPIC! I tried rocking, nursing, changing, massaging, distracting, bathing, you name it. She would NOT stop crying. My husband had gone out and I had to call him through the screams because I had tried everything I knew how to do and she had been going on for what felt like HOURS! When my husband returned, it took a great deal of time and patience before he was able to help me calm her, but I learned a few important lessons from this experience:
1 - Christmas is OVERSTIMULATING for children, especially infants. What I thought was fairly low-key, was incredibly stimulating for my newborn. Several trips in the car, music and voices, lights, being held by different people, disrupted routines… the list goes on. As parents, we need to buffer the stimulus as much as we can and then prepare to practice patience as our kids process and unwind after these overstimulating days.
2 - I don’t always have to FIX my child’s crying. On this particular day, I just wanted to find that magic thing that would make my daughter stop crying. I was feeling as upset as she was. I had made sure that all her physical needs had been met; she simply needed to process her emotions and the fatigue after an overstimulating day. I learned that I AM meeting her emotional needs by being there for her while she processes her emotions. She may feel better after crying in my arms, while I hold her, caress her, look into her eyes, sing to her or simply sit in silence with her. This too shall pass.
3 - Asking for help is necessary. I’m glad I asked for help that day. I felt relieved when my husband returned home because, although my daughter was still crying hysterically, I knew I had a support system. Even if we couldn’t stop her crying, there were two of us to share the burden and comfort her. And, in the end, we were able to comfort her and stop her crying, TOGETHER. Babies are co-regulators and are only able to regulate their emotions based on their caregiver’s emotions. Since my husband came fresh into the situation, he had a deeper calm and was able to bring that calm into our situation.
As you enjoy this holiday season, just remember that it’s a lot for your baby or toddler to take in. Keep things as simple as possible, take breaks from the busy-ness, then rest and cuddle when it’s all over! You may need to practice patience as your children unwind and get back into a normal routine. In the meantime, enjoy the magical moments with your little ones.
In Touch Sleep Education
photo: Alexander Belyaev