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Navigating the Holidays with a New Baby

Laurie Groh MS LPC SAS talks with Claire Whetter PhD, LPC, NCC from Shoreside Therapies in Milwaukee WI about:

How to survive the holidays with a new baby?

Setting Boundaries – What kind of boundaries can I set? How to do so?

Strategies to manage over stimulation – for you and baby

Prioritizing yourself – How can I still enjoy the holidays when caring for baby?

How to manage anxiety around illness this time of year?

Contact Claire

Laila Wiechmann, MS, LPC, LADC

Ready to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation?

Claire Whetter PhD, LPC-IT, NCC

More Questions? Call, text or email

(414) 215-0213

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1429 N. Prospect Ave
Milwaukee WI, 53202

Contact Laurie

Laurie Groh

Ready to schedule your complimentary 15-minute consultation?

Laurie Groh, MS, LPC, SAS

More Questions? Call, text or email

(262) 289-1519

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1429 N. Prospect Ave
Milwaukee WI, 53202

Video Transcript

Laurie: Hi, my name is Laurie Groh from Shoreside Therapies. I'm here with Claire Whetter today and we're going to be talking about a really important topic. The holidays are coming up for a lot of people, so there's a lot of new parents, a lot of new moms, a lot of new dads, and we want to just go over how to navigate the holidays with a new baby, which can be really challenging. I definitely remember it being challenging.

Claire: Yes.

Laurie: So welcome, Claire!

Claire: Hi! Thanks for having me today. I'm really excited to talk about this topic, something that I'm really passionate about. So yeah, let's get started.

Laurie: All right sounds good, so first question is setting boundaries. What kind of boundaries can somebody set and how do they even do it?

Claire: Right so I think boundaries are really important around the holidays, just in general, even more so important when you have a new baby or just kids in general. So I think about a few different types of boundaries that you might set that could be like physical boundaries, like I don't really want people to be kissing the baby's face or touching the baby, or maybe you just don't get that close to baby. Other things like time boundaries could be really important. So maybe you have other kids that need to take naps or you know that you and baby just need time to unwind, making sure that you respect yourself and how much time you can really spend at someone else's house or with people over at your house even.

Laurie: And I think those things are important. Oh, go ahead!

Claire: I was going to say emotional boundaries was my last one, so just thinking about what capacity do you have for socializing, where are your emotions at, especially if you recently had your baby, and how can you kind of respect yourself and protect your own emotional needs during the holidays?

Laurie: Right, because it can be a lot right and it can be a lot for a new baby. There's a lot of stimulation. Back to your physical boundaries, I also agree with having some, maybe even some beforehand conversations, but letting everybody know you're not as comfortable with people kissing the baby right now because of everything going around. It's and it's always like that during the holidays because we're all stuck inside and a lot of germs are getting spread. But it can be more impactful for a little baby, yes, and then the emotional piece too, of even having that like a room that you can go to. A lot of people understand that. But just asking right away when you get to somebody's house, if you're there, is there a room I can go if the baby's crying, you know taking than an emotional break, because that can be really stressful.

Claire: So some ways you can set these boundaries. So I think the most helpful thing to do is to validate that other persons like need or kind of how they might be feeling. So lots of family members are so excited to see the baby, maybe meet them for the first time, and we can be respectful of that and we can also have our own boundaries. So remembering, no matter what, your boundaries are valid, and when you present those boundaries to someone, it can be helpful to validate their feelings or what they might be experiencing. So saying something like, I know that you're really excited to meet baby and right now we're not really passing baby around to be held. Or, again, we're not kissing baby on the face, setting those boundaries and also acknowledging that person what they might be looking for from the experience.

Laurie: You're right, because babies are for the most part irresistible, and validating that makes a lot of sense. Anything else you want to add, Claire, before we move on.

Claire: I think that's all about boundaries.

Laurie: All right sounds good. So next question, Claire, is strategies to manage over stimulation for you and baby. So how does somebody go about doing that?

Claire: Yeah, so you were kind of mentioning this, like when baby starts crying, there's enough going on around the holidays anyways. Lots of people, lots of things going on, so this can be pretty common and baby can experience this and mom or dad or caregiver can also experience this. So, Laurie, you mentioned, like knowing where that room is, that you can have a little quiet time. I think feeding baby is a great opportunity to just give yourself and baby a break from the noise, all the things going on, and just take a moment to yourself. So knowing that you have a space, I think is really helpful and just knowing that you can use it. Other things that you can do are, if you're feeling really overstimulated, take a break right. Ask a trusted family member if they can hold baby while maybe you go get some fresh air. Or, you take a break by yourself in that quiet room. But I think really important in this area is making sure that you ask for help from those trusted people that you feel like you can pass baby off to and just make sure that you take care of yourself too.

Laurie: Right, the asking for help can sometimes be the challenge. That, as you know, a new mom or even if this isn't your first time, asking for that help can be, I feel like really challenging. Do you find that when you're working with individuals that piece becomes very hard?

Claire: Yes, absolutely, I think as moms we feel like we know how to do everything right. That's our baby. And of course we do, right, and we need to allow other people to help us as well, so that we can take a break and that, if we're feeling overstimulated, we're not making everything more difficult or not enjoying our holiday. That's supposed to be fun for us too.

Laurie: Right, right, and sometimes people don't know that you are needing the help as well, and they don't want to intrude or be invasive. So they might not ask to do it, but most people won't refuse baby, right?

Claire: Right, yes, I think that's a good point, that people don't know our needs unless we say them. So not just assuming that someone's going to offer to help, because maybe they're trying to respect our boundaries and making sure that you voice your needs as well.

Laurie: All right sounds good. All right, Claire, so next question: prioritizing yourself. So how can you still enjoy the holidays when caring for your baby?

Claire: Yeah, kind of like we were talking about, this can be difficult right. There's already a lot going on, and then babies have a lot of needs as well, so it can feel just really overwhelming and I think it's really important to kind of set all your expectations ahead of time. If you can right, maybe you talk with your partner or a person who's going to be supporting you and say these are my kind of intentions or expectations for this day, ask them what are theirs and then figure out how can you both meet those needs? Because you deserve to still have a good Thanksgiving or Christmas or whatever holiday that you're celebrating, and you don't need to miss out on all of that just because you're caring for baby as well. So really thinking about what you want that to look like and what do you need to meet that goal? I think really one of the big things is being flexible with yourself.

Laurie: Right right, but I think that piece a lot of people forget about. Is that talking about it beforehand, especially because it's new right. So you might not know what to expect, though, so asking your partner or a family member I might.. I might need some help. I might need to eat, right, without holding a baby, and that would be very useful if somebody would help me out with that. So that's a great-great thing. Also the flexibility right. That's key. It might not look the same way that it used to look, but you can still enjoy it.

Claire: Yes, so kind of some acceptance around that too, that this may not be the exact same holiday that I'm used to, and that's okay.

Laurie: All right, so Claire next question: how to manage anxiety around illness this time of year. I know this is for a lot of people, this is coming up.

Claire: Yes, really difficult this year, I think even more with all the RSV cases that we're seeing and all those kind of things, and then of course we still have COVID. So this is something that I'm seeing from a lot of people, like: how do I set these boundaries and how do I make sure that I feel comfortable with what I'm doing with baby. So, like we talked about before, always remembering that it's OK to set boundaries. If you don't feel comfortable going to something or you don't feel comfortable doing a certain thing, being around people, then that's okay. If you want to have some flexibility with that, there are some options depending on the age of your baby. Baby wearing is a really good one, because baby is close to you can still kind of see them, but they can't get right in their face and it kind of eliminates that question of can I hold the baby or passing baby around? So that's a really good strategy that you can use, is just kind of keeping baby close to you as much as possible.

Laurie: Claire, I never would have thought about that. That's great! That's a great idea.

Claire: Yeah, and a lot of people have had success with that too. I mean baby can't be in there all the time, but even just kind of like starting out the visit that way so that people kind of understand we're being careful. Always remembering that you can express those boundaries. Again, not kissing baby on the face, or maybe you don't touch baby's hands like things like that that make you feel more comfortable. Of course, masks and things are still options too, and I think the biggest anxiety that I hear with this is the parents blaming themselves or feeling like they did something wrong because baby got sick. And that is not helpful. So if your baby is already sick, it's stressful, and you're blaming yourself. That doesn't feel good and I think it's important to just recognize that babies get sick. No one likes when their kids are sick and it's really no one's fault. There are germs everywhere. You could keep your baby inside and they might still get sick.

Laurie: All right, I like that though, that additional piece, to remember to not blame yourself in those situations if they do get sick. If you're taking all the precautions, you can only eliminate so many different risks.

Claire: All right, and you still deserve to live your life. So what is the balance for you with protecting baby from illness and also being able to get out of the house and do things that you enjoy during this holiday season?

Laurie: Both are important. Yes, yes, so Claire, what about handling people's responses to this one in particular? Because I do know that sometimes clients will say I do want to protect my baby from illnesses, but I have family members that think I'm not making the right decision or I'm overreacting. Do you have any thoughts on that?

Claire: Yeah, so I think the first thing to do in those situations is really come back to your boundaries. And why are you setting them? Generally, we're setting those boundaries because we care about our baby, we love them, we want them to be healthy and safe and those, those boundaries are always valid. So just reminding yourself that it's okay if this is something that I need to do, reminding yourself that you are the parent and you get to make the choices. No one else makes choices for your child, and I think in those situations it can be really helpful to again come back to that validation of like, I know that maybe this isn't how you parented or I know that you really want to spend time with us and we're just not comfortable because babies only two months or three months or you know wherever you're at and just remembering that that's okay. It's scary when a baby is sick and people we don't want to go through that.

Laurie: Right right. It can be so scary. It can be so scary. So thank you care so much for your time today and if anyone wants to reach out to Claire, they can go to our website, www.shoresidetherapies.com, and you can find Claire's information there, her bio and how to set up an appointment.

Claire: Yeah! So thanks again for having me!

Laurie: All right, take care.

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