A slacker guide to holiday stress-busting

    Holidays: They’re joyful, wonderful, colorful... and stressful. Add a new baby to the mix – derailed sleep schedules, feeding-interrupted gift shopping, plus the hopes and dreams you’ve hung on your first holiday as a family – and you might be tempted to call the whole thing off. Instead, think of your little reindeer as a free ride to a less stressed season. Yes, you want to be able to remember your baby’s first Thanksgiving, or Christmas, or Kwanzaa, or Hannukah forever. If you rework your expectations, ignore the hysteria and simplify the festivities, you might just pull off some holiday magic.
    Stress factor #1: New-family performance anxiety.
    Before kids, holidays meant time off work, possibly a chance to get away—even if it was to Mom’s place. Now, with a little one on board, the pressure to get It right falls on your shoulders and rates a 10 on the stress scale.
    Stress relief: Take the pressure off the big day or days by seeing this as a season and not just one or two big events.
    Your baby might be fussy during the festivities and he might prefer to sleep rather than join the family for dinner or prefer the wrapping to the gift that came in it. None of this will matter much if you’ve already experienced some of the season’s splendor together. Get out and experience the sights and sounds: Go to town and let your baby’s eyes feast on decorations. Cruise through a decked out neighborhood, checking out the lights. Take a non-shopping trip to the mall – your little one might not care much about Santa yet, but the sight of him will help fill you with the magic of a child’s holiday.

    Stress factor #2: Making a meal to remember in your sleep-deprived state sounds like a recipe for disaster.
    The baby calls; you run to her; the next thing you know, your new best friend the smoke alarm is screaming its head off.
    Stress relief: Share the menu.
    What you need for your gathering is some luck - pot luck. Have each guest bring his or her specialty, and relax. All you have to do is coordinate (after all, what if everyone brings desert?), and there's a Web site that's designed specifically to help you do that - check out! Of course, if it’s just you two and the baby, let your fingers do the cooking—a good meal can be had with one phone call. You can even get help organizing by signing up with the site

    Stress factor #3: Balancing Baby’s needs with holiday demands.
    Just when you thought life as you knew it was over, the party invites arrive – but what about Baby’s bedtime?
    Stress relief: Don’t sweat it.
    If you have to choose between missing a party and missing a nap, just remember: Either is fine. If you decide to go, be prepared to find a quiet room where you can feed the baby; although you might be perfectly comfortable nursing in public, you’ll find the whole process is quicker and easier apart from the fray. If the baby gets cranky, don’t sweat it; keep talking or dancing, and she may just wind up falling asleep on your shoulder, all ready to be put down for a blissful nap in a quiet room. Babies are very portable and are usually happy sleeping anywhere. On the other hand, if you decide the party life’s not for you right now, that’s fine too. Friends will understand if you have to bow out this year. Just let them know that when the holidays come around again, you’ll be back!

    Stress factor #4: Family, friends and other oddities. 
    Babies bring joy, but they can’t erase all the awkward moments and unwanted advice.
    Stress relief: Defuse and redirect the conversation.
    Don’t engage: Instead, be prepared to whip out your photo album or anything else that will turn the conversation away from Aunt Fanny’s 30-year-old baby feeding tips (or why your three-month old won’t taste the brisket).

    Stress Factor #5: It’s cold season. What if Baby catches one from Cousin Henry?
    The holidays may be baby’s first big gulp of family and friends. How can you guard him from catching someone else’s runny nose? Is it okay not to let Henry get too close?  
    Stress relief: Think of cold germs as multiple sets of push-ups building Baby’s immune system.
    Consult with your pediatrician, but don’t be surprised if she says “get over it” or “party on, Dude-ette.” In the next few months, your baby will get sick – and well again – many times. If you’re still uncomfortable, bring a bottle of Purell and blame the doc for insisting people use it.

    Stress factor #6: Gift shopping for everyone’s favorite thing.
    We’ll say it again: A day at the mall when you’re toting a hungry poop machine is no fun for anyone.
    Stress relief: Scale down by initiating a Secret Santa game.
    Here’s how it works: Each person in your family group picks another group member’s name at random and buys one special gift for that person. You don’t even have to organize the game. Visit, a free site that will help you set up the exchange (the site also enables a Hannukah or Kwanzaa gift exchange – same thing, different name). Then have fun shopping. If you can go during the stores’ quieter hours, chances are that the bright lights, giant Santas and holiday jingles will delight your little one for as long as it takes to buy something special for one special someone.

    Stress factor #7: Can you ever create the big family event you remember from your childhood?
    If your idea of kid-friendly happy holidays is shaped by recollections of a horde of relatives sharing good food and great times half way across the country, or the globe (or even the state), you might wonder how your little family can cut it.
    Stress relief: Establish new traditions.
    Have your own intimate family holiday dinner or brunch – dress up, set a lovely table, or wear your pajamas and crank up the holiday tunes. A cuddle tradition is a great one: Snuggle up and read holiday books. There is nothing so immensely magical as cozying up with your new family -- your old man or sig other, your precious baby, and a warm cup of cocoa.