The holidays can be a magical time, especially when there’s a brand-new little one to share in all of the sparkly joy from his first Thanksgiving to his first New Year’s Day. But when too many seasonal must-dos pile up on top of baby duties, your stress levels can get dialed up to 11, making the magic feel more like madness. So, to help you make the most of your first holiday with Baby, here’s a list of eleven do’s and don’ts.

snow baby cc harald groven via flickr

Photo: Harald Groven via Flickr

Do take lots of pictures. You’ll delight in looking back at the shots of your bundled-up little one exploring her first snow or banging away with his first dreidel.

Don’t feel pressure to make a big holiday meal from scratch, unless you absolutely adore cooking and wait for months for the chance to roast a turkey. This just may be the year to order a pre-made meal, or host a festive potluck.

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Photo: Janice Cullivan via Flickr

Do respect your baby’s schedule. If your little one has settled into a routine, staying up late for too many nights can lead to joy-smashing meltdowns. Whenever it’s possible, keep up with nap and bedtime routines, and you and your little one will both be well rested and ready for holiday adventures.

Do take advantage of all the relatives’ love. If Aunt Jeannie wants to hold the baby for a few hours, it’ll give you the perfect opportunity to take a shower or go on a walk. For many modern parents, living far away from extended family, the holidays are the only time to have a village of support. Make the most of it!

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Photo: Brooke Raymond via Flickr

Don’t be afraid to say no. If you’re too tired to go to midnight mass or make an appearance at three Thanksgiving feasts, skip it. Feel free to make liberal use of your awesome excuse: I just had a baby. The holidays are no fun if nerves are frayed and little ones are wailing, so throw out the rules and preserve a little space for rest.

Do make sure to take time to fit in something that’s special to you, whether it’s driving around to see holiday lights or devouring gingerbread men. If you have the energy, you can even start a family tradition, like reading Twas the Night Before Christmas by candlelight, but keep it low key. You have many more holidays ahead to create new traditions with your wee one!

christmasbaby cc personal creations via flickr

Photo: Personal Creations via Flickr

Do bring a carefully selected bunch of baby necessities along if you’re traveling, like a favorite blanket and beloved pacifier. Follow these tips to make traveling with Baby a breeze. Ask the grandparents to have all the other essentials ready when you arrive, like diapers in the right size, so you can settle right in and get to celebrating.

Don’t feel compelled to take a long trip. If your little one is only a few weeks old, or you’re absolutely exhausted from balancing work and new mama-hood, celebrate with a low pressure holiday at home. Instead of risking being snowed in at an airport with a newborn, schedule a family visit for another time with less pressure and less risk of airplane delays.

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Photo: Valerie Hinojosa via Flickr

Don’t blow your budget on expensive gifts. Babies don’t need lots of shiny new toys to unwrap – most of them are just as happy with an empty box and a classic wooden rattle. On the other hand, if you still need a few choice pieces of baby gear, like a jogging stroller, the holidays can be a perfect time to ask Santa to slip a little something under the tree for you both.

Photo: Donnie Ray Jones via Flickr

Do take walks in a winter wonderland. Bundle up, and get outside. With a few extra layers, babies can marvel at the sparkling snow. Plus, a little fresh air keeps the cabin fever away.

Do remember that while this may be your baby’s first holiday, it’s not the only holiday. You’ll have many years to introduce your kiddo to pumpkin pie and sleigh rides. Keep it simple and focus on what’s meaningful, and what brings joy to you and your family.

How do you keep the holidays jolly and tantrum free? Share your best tips in the comments below.

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—Oz Spies