The holidays are the most wonderful time of the year, but with never-ending to-do lists and family obligations, it can also be the most challenging. Having a new sweet bundle makes it more of both. Read on for our favorite tips for toting your little elf through all of the hustle and bustle and ideas for creating new family traditions that will make this special season even more memorable.

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Photo: Christy Lynne Photography

1. Delight baby’s newly developing senses with all of the sparkling sights of the season. Place baby within view of your Christmas tree lights or bundle him up for a “holiday lights tour” through your neighborhood.

2. Start a cherished tradition of gifting your child an ornament each year, beginning with a “Baby’s First Christmas” ornament. Each year, choose an ornament that reflects one of your child’s interests or signifies a family event. When your child is ready to have a tree of their own, they’ll have a box of ornaments — and more importantly, fond Christmas memories — they can take with them wherever they go.

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Photo: Christy Lynne Photography

3. Capture a magical “baby’s first holiday photo” at home with the use of a few props. Simply set baby in front of the Christmas tree, surround her with a strand of twinkling light, toss a few unbreakable, sparkling ornaments her way or set her up with a dreidel, then snap away while that sweet face does the rest. (Bonus points for cute siblings!) Make your setup a tradition for future holiday snaps.

4. Amidst all of the holiday to-dos and get-togethers, keep baby’s daily routine as consistent and predictable as possible. Sticking to baby’s feeding and sleeping times will go a long way towards ensuring you’ll have a merry elf (rather than a grouchy grinch) on your hands.

Photo: Aaron Jacobs via Flickr

5.Take advantage of your house full of guests. Enlist a trusted relative to watch baby for a bit while you gift yourself a few minutes out of the house for last-minute shopping or to grab a peppermint mocha from your favorite coffee shop.

6. If flying is in the cards for your crew, pay close attention to flight times and pick the shortest, most direct one. (Trust us, it’s worth the extra cash.) Pack plenty of milk or loads of snacks, along with a favorite blanket or lovey and small toys to keep squirmy babies distracted. Don’t forget the pacifier to ease ear pressure.

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Photo: Karen Sheets de Gracia via Flickr

7. Photos with Santa are a childhood rite of passage. Set yourself up for a picture-perfect experience — and, well, a perfect picture — by planning your visit with the big guy at a time when baby is well-fed and rested. And be sure you’re the one who hands baby off to Santa. (If your baby has a serious case of stranger danger, try backing baby up onto Santa’s knee while maintaining eye contact — and making lots of silly faces — as the photographer snaps the photo.)

8. Keep your most precious gift healthy in the midst of all the seasonal festivities by exercising a little extra caution. Wash your hands frequently and don’t be afraid to ask others to do the same. Remember, infants under the age of three months are especially susceptible to germs and can land in the ER for even a mild fever.

Photo: Christy Lynne Photography

9. There’s nothing much sweeter than a baby in snuggly PJs. Kickoff the gift-giving festivities on Christmas Eve by gifting baby (and everyone else!) with a new set of pjs. Bonus: you’ll all be decked out for those early morning photo-ops.

10. If a never-ending stream of commitments have you feeling like a burned out bulb, it’s okay to press pause. Skipping the “eh events” will keep you and baby feeling fresh for the ones you do enjoy.

ChristmasPhoto: Christy Lynne Photography

11. Even if your babe in arms is too tiny to comprehend The Night Before Christmas or The Christmas Story, it’s never to early to start a holiday reading tradition. Up the fun of this treasured Christmas Eve activity by choosing a sturdy board book or one with touch-and-feel pages.

12. Turn on soothing or upbeat Christmas tunes to match your baby’s mood. Or, better yet, tuck baby into a stroller and spread good cheer to your neighbors with some old-fashioned caroling. It’s no secret — babies love music.

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Photo: Christy Lynne Photography

13. Pay attention to baby’s moods and cues. With all of the hustle and bustle and new faces, your little bundle of joy can become overstimulated (read: cranky) quickly. To avoid massive meltdowns, sneak your wee one away for some quiet time or a nap at the first signs of tiredness, such as fussiness, yawning and eye-rubbing.

14. Be prepared with entertainment. If going to Grandma’s house (or anywhere) for the holidays involves going over the river and through the woods, keep your kiddo entertained during long car rides with plenty of snacks and a few toys wrapped in shiny paper. (Be sure to observe baby as she “unwraps” the toys.)

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Photo: Christy Lynne Photography

15. Repeat this mantra: ’I am not Martha Stewart,’ and that’s okay. Skip trying to recreate every holiday recipe or home decor project that you pinned and focus instead on savoring these fleeting, once-in-a-lifetime moments.

Do you have any other tips for making baby’s first holiday season enjoyable and memorable? Share them in the comment section below. 

— Suzanna Logan