by Dr. Laura Kent-Davidson, ND IBCLC

Many different holidays and traditions are celebrated at this time of year. For families who have welcomed a new baby into their world, this time may be enjoyed with gatherings of friends and family eager to celebrate the arrival of your little one with you. While these gatherings are a time of much needed connection, they also may bring up conflicting feelings, especially for those who may be working through feeding challenges, running on low levels of sleep or simply adjusting to their new responsibilities. If you have recently welcomed a baby into your family, here are some gentle reminders to support your mental health this holiday season.

these gatherings are a time of much needed connection, they also may bring up conflicting feelings

Limit expectations of yourself. 

Gatherings often involve:

  •  a lot of travel
  • time in a car-seat or on transit
  • changes in environments
  • stimulation
  • requests to bring food to share
  • a desire to give gifts, etc.

With a new baby in tow, this can all feel like a lot during a time when basic self care may be hard to accomplish. These early weeks postpartum are a time for you and your baby to rest and connect. If that means you need to turn down an invitation, leave early, or show up empty handed, that is ok. Control over our time and the expectations we have of ourselves is often influenced by family values, religious beliefs, and cultural expectations, but don’t be afraid to prioritize your needs and the needs of your newborn during this time.

If that means you need to turn down an invitation, leave early, or show up empty handed, that is ok

Share your story. 

While connecting with family and friends there will no doubt be a lot of time sitting in awe of the precious new life you have welcomed to the world. This awe we feel as new parents often co-exists alongside overwhelm and exhaustion - postpartum is hard!

Your birth story, your feeding story, your early days of parenting story… it’s not uncommon to have shame attached to pieces and parts of them. The great Brene Brown teaches us that silence and secrecy help shame grow and that the antidote to shame is empathy. In order to receive empathy, we need to share our story. This time of gathering and connection will hopefully offer you opportunities to share authentically with maybe one person, or maybe more. You don’t need to sugar coat anything (except for holiday baking????)

Notice your emotions during this transition. 

All big transitions bring up periods of grief, including feels of loss, longing, and feeling lost. These feelings might feel surprising to you as a new parent and you might even have the instinct to push them away or try to talk yourself out of them. After all, the holiday season is a time for joy and celebration and with a new baby around, even more so!

Give yourself permission postpartum to move through waves of grief as they come up. It is a normal part of the postpartum journey as life changes dramatically (relationships change, responsibilities and routines change, your understanding of the world changes) and you are finding your new way. A lot of beautiful gains but a lot of losses as well. It is ok (and important) to acknowledge them as you notice them come up.

Congratulations to all the families out there! We hope everyone enjoys a beautiful holiday season full of love and connection with those important to you.

DR. LAURA KENT-DAVIDSON ND IBCLC Laura (she/her) is an advocate for new parents, a defender of the rights of the child, and a mother of 2. As a Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and Naturopathic Doctor (ND) she loves supporting families as they prepare for the arrival of their little ones and navigate feeding challenges if they arise. Her love for learning has led Laura to complete further training in infant mental health promotion, infant sleep, and self-regulation in the early years, which are all woven into her work. Laura has lived in Canada, Thailand, and Ethiopia with her family, and along the way has been challenged to explore what it means to decolonize breast/bodyfeeding, parenting, and postpartum health care. When not seeing patients or running lactation trainings, Laura enjoys exploring with her kids, reading, listening to podcasts, being creative, and connecting with nature.

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