If, like the Cambridges, you have a baby aged zero-12 months, you are either aiming towards a routine, or have one already ticking along. The challenge is to make sure that as you take up invitations from family over the Christmas period, that it is a relaxing time for everyone - you and baby especially.
Picture the scene at Sandringham this Christmas Eve. It's 4.55pm, the Royal Family are gathered around the tree, in their best Christmas outfits. The sherry is out and everyone has a glass full, ready to toast the tree. An adorable little baby boy called George, dressed in a velvet navy blue sailor's suit is on his mother Kate's hip, smiling and gurgling at everything. At 4.58pm, a butler sails past, offers Kate a glass of sherry and she happily hands over the gorgeous tot to husband William, who concentrates on making him laugh, jiggling him up and down and tickling him under the chin. Mummy sips her sherry, happy to see baby occupied with Daddy.
But, like a lot of mums spending their first Christmas with baby and in laws, Kate has a secret. Time is running out. At 5.01pm precisely he'll begin to cry so loudly that the corgis will need earplugs and the butlers will disappear below stairs as quickly as you can say vintage Amontillado. He'll scream during his last feed, yell during his bath and yowl as he is put in his babygro and shout while he is gently rocked. And it lasts until 7.30pm, at which point he sighs, sticks his thumb in his mouth and falls asleep.
By the time Kate has sipped her sherry and checked her watch, it is 5.00pm exactly and baby has been passed around the room like a plate of mince pies. He is now in the arms of one of the young Princesses, and Kate knows that she has one minute exactly to cross the room, retrieve the baby and run upstairs out of earshot to calm him and soothe him to sleep for the next two and a half hours.
This scenario will be all too familiar to many first time mothers by Boxing Day. I have a telling montage of photos from my daughter's first Christmas at her grandparents. She was three months old and as cute as a kitten in snow. I had proudly brought her downstairs on Christmas Eve night. Passed around the room to each adoring older relative, the photos start with a happy and gurgling baby. By the time she had reached my mum (Grandma) it was 5.30pm and the fun was over. Her face resembled a very angry, very wrinkly scarecrow. Howling her heart out, the next two hours was spent trying to calm her and get her to sleep, out of earshot of the party and wondering if they had finished all the champagne without me.
At Christmas, baby Cambridge will be five months old - in the twilight zone of baby routines. A babe of three-six months should be getting into a regular rhythm during the daytime of feeds and naps at particular times. The evening routine mirrors this and helps baby to settle calmly and contentedly to bed.
This is where Christmas can throw a spanner in the works. You know your child - and if they begin to wail like a screaming banshee from 5.05pm until precisely 7.32pm, you have two options. One, you tough it out and provide a helpful birth control lesson to any of the younger generation that have joined the family for Christmas, or two, you have a quick phone call ahead of time to your hosts, warning them that you will be tied to your baby's bedtime routine.
Savvy mums know that a short phone call put in ahead of arrival time will get friends and family thinking on their feet. Most hosts will enjoy having a little one in the house so much that they will accommodate your child's routine - opting for a cold Christmas dinner starter rather than a hot one. Or they will push back the timing of their usual Christmas routine to give you time to settle baby. Either way, make sure that you take advantage of all the help offered from family at Christmas time, and enjoy this special time with your baby - and your family and friends.
By the time the Downton Abbey Christmas Special is announced, between you, the babe's dad and your festive gang, you can put in place some simple tactics to share the fun of baby juggling. Classic tactics include dad looking after bathtime routine, leaving you an hour to catch up with your hosts and join them for the starter, while you can handle getting the baby to sleep. With the promise that while you are getting baby off to the land of nod, your host will bring you up a little plate of nibbles and whatever everyone else is quaffing. A really hands-on host might promise to do the morning shift and get up to entertain the youngest guest, giving you time to lie in or have a leisurely shower in the morning. And if all goes well, you know exactly where to go next year!