How To Prepare For Baby’s First Thanksgiving

The holiday season is upon us! If you’re celebrating baby’s first Thanksgiving today, I hope it’s a beautiful day with family and fun and laughter! But before you whip out the holiday decorations, take a moment to relish your baby’s first taste of Thanksgiving turkey! Now that I’ve been lugging a baby around with me for a few years to family gatherings – make that two babies – I’ve got some pro-tips for making baby’s first Thanksgiving perfect as pumpkin pie!

Settle On A Family Holiday Plan

If you are in a committed/partnered relationship, or you co-parent your child with someone else, it’s best to have an early discussion about your holiday plans. Until we invent time travel, it’s impossible to be in two places at once. Since Thanksgiving only happens one day each year, you have to decide together if you’re going to spend Thanksgiving at home with your own nuclear family, in your hometown with your parents, or with your partner’s parents and family. In our family, my husband’s parents live about 6 hours from my mom, so it’s really not feasible to try to see both families for the same holiday. Whatever arrangements you settle on, prioritize what’s best for your children – and not just the desires of the grandparent who complains the loudest. Alternating years is a happy medium for most families. Once you decide, tell your families well in advance of the holiday season.

Teach Kids It’s Okay To Refuse Hugs

Family holidays are a time of togetherness! Being able to show you love someone through your presence, words, and actions is such a blessing. But not everyone loves being hugged or touched – and loving them means respecting their wishes. Thanksgiving is a great opportunity to encourage your child to set those boundaries for themselves. Before you even pack your bags, let your kid know they can say no. They don’t have to hug or kiss anyone they don’t want to (especially during cold and flu season). This might seem trivial, but family holidays are a learning opportunity to teach your little ones about creating a culture of consent. That culture of consent doesn’t have to end at your front door.

What To Pack For Baby

As soon as I finish writing this article, I’m going to pack my baby’s bags for our own family Thanksgiving trip. This process that takes me hours – not because I’m extremely organized or anal retentive, but because I bring ALL THE THINGS with me. I bring twice as many clothes as my kids will go through on an average day – not because they’ll be magically messier, but because my family takes lots of photos! Even if the family that we’re visiting has a small child of their own, I bring my kids’ high chairs or booster seats. I pack snacks for the car or the plane. Depending on how long we’ll be traveling, I might even bring books or toys to occupy my toddler. If you feel like you’ve packed too much, you’ve probably forgotten three important things. I’m all about minimalism, except when it comes to being stuck away from your home with a lot of family and stimulation going on, and having a cranky toddler or baby. In that situation, I want to make sure I brought the kitchen sink with me, just in case.

RELATED: Is Minimalism Stealing The Joy From Their Childhood? 

Ask Family To Wash Hands Before Holding Baby

Maybe it’s telling that I’m emphasizing the opportunities for an awkward conversation like teaching your kid that they can refuse to hug great-aunt Gerta. But this one is really important – especially since most of the major U.S. holidays fall in the middle of cold and flu season. Don’t be shy about asking your family to wash their hands before holding your baby – doubly so if you have a November newborn. You can be even more “extra” and bring your own hand sanitizer to offer. if you feel like it’s overstepping to ask people to wash their hands first, try this pro-tip: Wear your baby. It’s a great way to keep people hands-off if germs are a worry.

Let Relatives Care For Your Kids

And yes, right after I said, “Wear your baby”, I’m going to encourage you to hand them over to someone else. A few caveats here – make sure this is someone you trust with your child, who is mature and responsible enough to keep them safe. Communicate any allergies and where they can find rescue medications like inhalers or epi-pens. Of course, insist on good handwashing. And then – let them go. The holidays aren’t a holiday for you unless you make them that way. Your children are a blessing, sure – but let’s not pretend that parenting is also a 24/7/365 burden to shoulder. If others in your family are willing and able to help you carry that weight, please let them help. I know my mom would rather forgo the entire Thanksgiving meal if it meant she got to hold her sleeping granddaughter. So it’s cold mashed potatoes and turkey for her! For one day – a rare day – I will seize the opportunity to eat my food while it’s warm and without anyone crawling all over me. This is both self-care and allowing others to care for you.

Tips For Ignoring Unsolicited Parenting Advice

Uh oh. This is the advice that undoes it all! Ignore unsolicited parenting advice. Yes, that’s right – I just told you to take or leave all that advice I just handed over. At the end of the day, these are your kids. No matter what worked for Aunt Fran or Grandma Millie, you get to make the parenting choices that work for your family. Thanksgiving can be an especially stressful time – especially those during election years (I wonder why…) – but don’t let it get to you. To keep the peace, just pretend you didn’t hear their comments. To make a point, tell them you’ve already decided on Topic X and it’s not up for discussion. A family holiday doesn’t undo all the intentional thought you’ve put into your decisions. Either way, you’re winning! Because after you eat the last slice of pumpkin pie, you’ll load your kids into the car and go back home to your own rules.

NEXT: Fall Bucket List: Five Fun Activities For New Moms And Their Infant Tagalongs

What Thanksgiving tips will you use this holiday? Which piece of advice works well for you? Share your little baby turkey with me on Twitter @pi3sugarpi3 with #BabysFirstThanksgiving.