Is There a Right Way to Celebrate Baby's First Birthday?

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This is not a post about how to plan a Pinterest-worthy, uniquely-themed first birthday party that will wow your guests and make impressive Instagram photos.  

I’m not going to talk about smash cakes, decorations, or party tutus.  You can find plenty of that with just a quick Google search.

What I really want to talk about is WHY baby’s first birthday is such a momentous day worth celebrating, and how to celebrate it in ways that honor that WHY.

To clarify:  No, of course there’s not a right way to celebrate baby’s first birthday.  (But, you knew that, right?)

Just like there’s no one right way to parent, there’s no one right way to mark this special occasion.

But with so many ways to celebrate, what do all of these celebration styles have in common?

For one thing, your baby just took their first trip around the sun.  It will hopefully be the first trip of many.  

One year ago, they made their debut to the world.  And by the time their birthday comes around, they will have finally spent more time on earth than they have in the womb.  It’s really kind of profound when you think about it.

I think birthday celebrations are also a way of introducing them to your culture, in the same way that baby’s first Christmas or baby’s first Halloween is an introduction.  It is a way of showing, “This is an occasion that we value and this is how we celebrate it.”

Of course, your baby isn’t going to remember their first birthday party.  But it is one more piece of the puzzle in shaping their worldview.

But, honestly, I think there’s something even deeper at play here and I don’t think it’s often acknowledged.

Baby’s first birthday is really about you, mom.

This is a day worth marking--not just for your baby, but also because, momma, you made it!  You survived the first year and your baby is still alive!

Deep down, I bet most if not all moms feel a well of pride over this accomplishment.  Maybe your baby had to have a serious medical procedure, or you struggled (or still are?) with postpartum depression and have made it this far, or you figured out how to handle that weird tummy issue they had for weeks straight…  

You may feel like you’ve failed over and over, or you may have had the most breezy, blissful new mother experience ever.  Whatever your story, you and your baby both have made it.  

You’ve learned, you’ve loved, you’ve failed and triumphed.  If that’s not a feat worth celebrating, then I don’t know what is.

So, on that note, I think baby’s first birthday party is really about so much more than just baby’s first birthday.  Don’t you?

I’d also like to suggest that you find a way to celebrate YOU too at this special time.  Maybe that’s what baby’s birthday party is really about for you.  Or, maybe you want to find your own way to celebrate your first year of motherhood apart from the party.

 

Here are some ways to celebrate your victory as a mom:

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  • Take a walk or sit down with a journal and really think about what exactly this occasion means to you.

  • Take a spa day all by yourself or with your other momma friends.

  • Spend an afternoon at your favorite coffee shop to work exclusively on catching up on that baby book you’ve been too exhausted to even crack open.

  • Write a letter to your baby that you can give to them after they’ve grown.

  • Hire a quilt-maker to create a keepsake out of your baby’s favorite onesies.

  • Buck the system and shock your friends by NOT hosting a party at all.

  • Take a NAP.  Or, sleep in that morning.  Or both. (Can you think of a better reason to hire a sitter for a couple of hours?)

 

What would feel special and meaningful to you?

 

As far as your baby’s party goes, I think the biggest thing to keep in mind is to keep it baby-centered in ways that keep your child’s interests and needs in mind.

We’ve all seen those massive, elaborate Pinterest-perfect birthday parties on reality TV shows or online.  If this is really what will bring you joy, then by all means, go nuts.  

But I think it’s worth considering whether a party like this is really for your baby or if it’s for you.  (As I’ve already mentioned, I think it’s absolutely worthwhile to celebrate you as a momma on this momentous occasion, so no judgment here.  I just think a little honesty about what this is all for is key.)  

And, if a big, showy party isn’t about you or baby at all and is more about impressing your guests or getting the best photos for Facebook, please let yourself off the hook on this one.  This isn’t about them.

 

One key thing to keep in mind is your baby’s current developmental phase.  

If your little one experiences “stranger danger” or separation anxiety pretty strongly lately or is upset by overstimulation, then a big party full of people that are going to want to dote on your child is probably not the best choice.

Truthfully, your baby will likely be most happy with your undivided attention.  So, consider your child in this and err on the side of a smaller, more intimate gathering if possible.

 

Things your baby won’t care about:

  • Party themes

  • How much you spend

  • Noise makers (These might actually have an adverse response!)

  • Goodie bags

  • Games

  • Whether anything was homemade or store-bought

  • Whether there are 2 gifts or 200 gifts….or none at all

  • Whether there are 4 guests or 40 (In fact, your baby might prefer to celebrate with just you, your partner, baby’s siblings and nana and pops.)

  • Whether they have the perfect party outfit or just a diaper to wear.  (I’m certain your guests will all know who “is turning 1!” with our without a designated outfit telling them so.  But if you really want it for the photos, then by all means.)

 

Things your baby will love:

  • Your attention

  • Feeling well-rested (so factor naptime into your party schedule)

  • Cake (or some other special treat) and making a mess with it

  • Tearing up wrapping paper (probably more than the gifts themselves!)

  • And when they’re much older, your own imperfect snapshots of the day.

 

THAT’S IT.  It’s really that simple.  And, it’s really that special, even without the frills.

 

Now, I’d love to hear from you!  How will you (or how did you) celebrate your baby’s first birthday?  What does this day mean to you? Leave your thoughts in the comments....