Smash cakes, balloon arches, goodie bags, custom party themes like "Alice in One-derland" ... the pressure on parents to plan a Pinterest-worthy first birthday party for their baby is real. But many overwhelmed parents are instead opting out of the traditional bash and finding alternative ways to celebrate the milestone.
As a busy working mom, Ashley King still felt as exhausted when her son turned 1 as she did the first week they brought him home.
"That year mark is tough because there is so much transition," King tells Yahoo Life. "Really, you’re just in a different ‘new’ place. From crawling to walking, dropping the bottle, sleep regressions, more big kid food, and teething — it’s still a lot to manage.”
And so when her son's first birthday rolled around, she decided against a full-on party and instead had a modest family get-together. "We really enjoyed not having to stress and just enjoy his day," says King, noting that most of her mom friends have also forgone throwing birthday parties for their kids' first, and even second, birthdays.
Shannon Weiss, co-founder of Clover Baby & Kids, also chose to mark her baby's birthday with an intimate family gathering. Weiss hosted a small dinner with the grandparents at her home, where guests pored over a special book of photos chronicling her child's first year of life. She also found a way to toast the parental achievement the birthday signified.
"My husband and I went out together to celebrate that we made it one year," Weiss shares.
Since her youngest son was born 14 weeks premature and spent three months in the NICU before coming home, Amanda Hoffman chose not to have a party on his actual birthday and to wait for a more celebratory day.
“I wasn’t in the right headspace to celebrate that day," Hoffman says. "Since no child remembers their first birthday anyway, my husband and I chose to celebrate in a way that felt right for us: three months later, on the anniversary of the day we finally brought our baby home from the hospital. For us, this was the day he finally felt like ours, and was a day worth celebrating.”
For parents who have experienced birth trauma, Hoffman’s perspective is a powerful reminder of how impactful a birthday can be. "For most parents, the day their child is born is the best day of their life," she says. "For me, it was my worst. It was the day my body failed to keep him safe, and we almost lost him.”
The tradition of celebrating the homecoming day has stuck with their family; even now that her son, now 6 years old, wants to have a birthday party with his friends on his actual birthday, they still celebrate the anniversary of the day they took him home as well. “I still need a moment to myself on that day each year, and I usually have myself a good cry before I can put on a smile and celebrate him," Hoffman admits.
Chloe Bovia was still recovering from postpartum depression when her daughter was turning 1, so decided to skip the stress of throwing a party. She had a small family dinner with the grandparents instead.
“Skipping a traditional first birthday party was a no-brainer; we were busy, exhausted parents and coordinating a whole party for a person who was going to have no idea what was going on anyway just didn’t make sense," Bovia says. "Having an intimate gathering, watching a slideshow of all our baby photos together and sharing a home-cooked meal was super-special. I think about it fondly and it just reminds me of how deep the love is within our families. Doing it that way let us focus on enjoying ourselves instead of trying to entertain people.”
After dinner, Bovia’s mom offered to watch the baby so that she and her husband could go out. “We went to a nice bar, but we were so tired as a unit that we came back home after an hour!" she says. "Parenthood is no joke, and that first year was the toughest. To be surrounded by love from our closest family members was enough of a celebration for us. And as new parents, it felt really good to take that pressure to perform off ourselves and just do what was right for our family.”
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