This is the time of year where one holiday seems to blend right into the next, with Thanksgiving preparations beginning soon after Halloween, and the first notes of festive music appearing on the radio before the turkey day leftovers have been consumed. It’s usually regarded as a busy and overwhelming time of year for everyone, but for parents who need support after premature birth, it can be extra stressful.
The holidays fall right in the middle of RSV and flu season, and it can seem like there’s always someone with a runny nose just outside your front door. Whether you’re still practically living in the NICU or your little one is home, having a premature baby can mean skipping the family gatherings and festivities that have meant so much to your family in the past.
So how can you make the most of the holidays with your preemie? Here are four ideas
Whether you’re limited in what you can do because you’re trying to avoid crowds and germs or you’re especially limited because you want to spend as much time as possible in the NICU, make an effort to let the holidays into your home and heart. So what if it’s just you, your partner, and your kid(s)? That’s no reason not to decorate and cook good food and get into the spirit of the season! Ask the NICU staff what you can do to bring the holidays to your baby if this isn’t the year you’ll be doing the reverse. We hear cookies are usually appreciated by NICU staff! Your family may have a long way to go, but why not celebrate how far you’ve come? And if you need support handling holidays after premature birth, ask for it.
Sometimes Small Is the Only Option
If this is your preemie’s first holiday season at home, your relatives may be anxious to have you over for gatherings and parties. Having to say no, if that’s what is necessary to keep your family in tip top health through the cold months, can be disappointing for everyone. In some cases, you can lessen some of those feelings by inviting close family over to celebrate – just make sure everyone is absolutely healthy first.
Don’t Forget Fun for the Little One
Celebrating small can still feel like a big deal, especially if this is your preemie’s first ever holiday season. As we said above, do what you can to bring holiday cheer to the NICU. Your little one won’t remember his or her first holiday, but you will! For those at home, involve your preemie in the festivities, but remember that the holidays can be overwhelming even when celebrations are simple. Since you’ll be celebrating small this year, consider using this time to create new family traditions just for you and yours!
Take pictures and videos! Put your preemie in holiday themed outfits – even if it’s just a hat for the smallest preemies. Create a holiday card with the results of your photography, even if you feel a bit odd that the backdrop is wires instead of garlands. If you’re at home, now is a great time to start a holiday tradition where you snap a yearly picture of your preemie with a special holiday decoration as a way of marking his or her growth from year to year!
What are you most looking forward to about spending this holiday season with your preemie, in or out of the NICU?