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Thanksgiving with a Baby: Tips for a Safe and Stress-Free Holiday

The holidays are an exciting, but stressful time. Whether this is your baby’s first Thanksgiving, or you are a seasoned parent, this joyful time can bring about tricky situations. These can come in the form of breaking regular routines or of well-meaning relatives. The best way to combat them is to be prepared. 

Here are tips to help keep this holiday safe and stress-free:

 

Tip 1: Make a safe sleep plan

You may be traveling this holiday season, or perhaps you will be spending a lot of time at other people’s homes. To prepare, make a plan for how you baby will be able to sleep safe. If the place you are going does not have a crib, consider bringing along a portable one.

Remember that babies sleep safest alone, on their backs, in a crib, and in a smoke-free home. For more information about infant safe sleep, visit our safe sleep page.

 


Tip 2: Talking to relatives about safe sleep

Your family may be eager to love on and help care for your baby. It is great to accept help and give yourself a break, just make sure that all relatives know that your baby sleeps safely. That means alone, on their back, in a crib, and in a smoke-free home.

Older family members may remember putting their babies to sleep on their stomachs and advise you to do the same. You can gently point out that some things have changed since they raised their own babies. In 1992 experts began recommending that babies should sleep on their backs. Since then, SIDS rates have dramatically declined, meaning that more babies are safer.

For more safe sleep information and resources, including a video for grandparents and caregivers, visit our safe sleep page.  

 


Tip 3: Setting boundaries

Your child’s safety and comfort are your priority. Sometimes that means having difficult conversations with those you love about what you want for your family. While your baby is young, it is a great time to begin establishing your boundaries. If your baby is exclusively breastfed and your grandmother suggests feeding them table food, you might smile and say “We are not doing solid foods yet” and suggest another way great-grandma can help take care of the baby. Or if an aunt asserts that all her babies slept on their stomachs, explain that experts now know that babies are safest on their backs.

These conversations can be awkward, but having them early on makes it easier down the road. There’s deep value in the wisdom of elders, but for some topics, now we know better, so we’re doing better.

 


Tip 4: Pay attention to signals

Babies and toddlers may not speak yet, but they have a way of showing when they’re uncomfortable. It is never too early to teach children about bodily autonomy. If they do not want to hug a relative, instead of forcing them, help them navigate what feels comfortable to them.

If a relative insists on a hug that your child doesn’t want to give, you can step in and offer an alternative like “can you blow Aunty a kiss?” or “do you want to give Uncle a high five?” This way, you are showing them that they are in charge of their own body and that you support them.  

 


Tip 5: Give yourself space if you need it

Taking care of a baby is already a lot of work and can feel more stressful over the holidays. If you can, make space in your schedule to have some time to yourself and to take care of your baby. During this busy time of the year, try to set aside 1 hour a week to do something specifically for yourself.

If your baby is getting fussy in large gatherings, they may be overwhelmed by the number of people or the attention. Take a break with baby to go to a quiet room and just be present with each other.

 

 


Tip 6: Brush up on car seat safety

Car seats are great for baby to nap in while in the car. Because car seats are reclined in a car, baby’s head is at a safe angle for sleeping. But outside of the car, letting a baby nap or sleep overnight in a car seat is dangerous. If baby falls asleep in the car, and stays asleep when you carry them in your home, take them out of the car seat and move them to a safe sleep surface as soon as possible.

Another tip to remember is to strap your baby into their seat without their winter coat. Coats are bulky and prevent harness straps from being effective. If you’re worried about warmth, strap your child in the car seat, then turn the coat around and slip it on their arms backwards.

 


Tip 7: Keep baby cozy, not hot

Overheating is a leading cause of SIDS. During these frosty winter months, you may worry that your baby will be cold while sleeping. Avoid overheating by sticking to this simple rule: if a room’s temperature is comfortable for you, it is comfortable for your baby.

To learn more infant safe sleep tips, visit our safe sleep page.

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Baltimore City Health Department,
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