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The winter holidays are a time of celebrations, traditions, and enjoying time with friends and family. There is so much about this time of year that is fun. Parties, exchanging gifts, foods that make an appearance only at this time of year, and special treats all contribute to the festive feeling.
But let’s be honest, the holiday season also serves up a giant helping of stress.
As a new breastfeeding mom, it can be overwhelming. You might even be tempted to just call it in.
These tips for breastfeeding during the holidays will help you keep your sanity and enjoy all the goodness that the season has to offer.
11 TIPS FOR BREASTFEEDING DURING THE HOLIDAYS
1 – HAVE A PLAN ON WHEN AND WHERE TO BREASTFEED DURING THE HOLIDAYS
Don’t Skip Feedings
If you are breastfeeding on demand, you might think that you won’t have to worry about when to breastfeed. However, many things can cause disruptions to your baby’s feeding routine.
It is not unusual for a baby to get overstimulated from all the extra people around and the activity that occurs during the holiday season. The result can be that your baby sleeps more during the day than he typically does. He may even sleep through feeding times.
Alternatively, all the increased activity can make your baby irritable or distracted. Your baby may have trouble latching or not feed as well as she usually does.
If friends and family are holding the baby, they may miss the feeding cues that you would recognize right away.
Time can get away from you when you get busy with unwrapping presents or preparing food.
Set a reminder on your smartwatch, activity tracker, or your phone.
• If someone is holding your baby, give them a quick lesson on feeding cues and tell them it is important to bring your baby to you if they see any feeding cues.
• If you are going to be driving long distances, plan regular stops for breastfeeding and diaper changes.
• Minimize playing, “pass the baby.” It’s a fact of life that everyone wants to cuddle a new baby. However, when many different people hold your baby, she may end up overtired and over-stimulated. This is turn, can result in her not feeding well or even skipping feedings. Limiting a young baby’s contact with many different people will also help protect her from being exposed to the colds and flu that are common this time of year.
• When you do allow someone to hold your baby, make sure they wash their hands or use hand sanitizer first.
• Wear your baby in a front carrier. For some reason, people are less likely to ask to hold a baby when you are wearing him than if you are carrying him in your arms. Using a front carrier will free up your hands but allow you to keep your baby close. Your little one will be comforted and calmed by staying close to you this way.
• You can breastfeed your baby in a baby carrier. If you’ve never done this before, you will want to practice at home first.
Decide Where You Will Breastfeed
If you are a mom who is comfortable feeding your baby wherever you are when he wants to eat, then you can skip this section.
Breastfeeding moms in the USA have the legal right to breastfeed wherever they are (Source).
Some moms feel nervous about breastfeeding in front of other people. Practicing at home in front of a mirror can provide you with the confidence to see how easy it is to breastfeed discreetly.
If you are more comfortable breastfeeding in private, decide where that will be. If you are at your own home, the choice is yours. If you are a guest in someone’s house, call them ahead of time and discuss which room you can use to feed your baby.
If you are traveling, many airports have nursing rooms or pods where you can breastfeed or pump. Have an alternate plan in case that location is occupied.
If you are out shopping, think about where there are comfortable places for you to sit for feeding sessions.
• Does the mall or store have a nursing room?
• Is there an area where there are comfortable chairs or couches?
• Take a break for a meal and breastfeed in a restaurant.
• Are there stores in the mall that have a woman’s lounge with chairs or couches?
2 – AVOID HOLIDAY FOODS THAT CAN DECREASE MILK SUPPLY
One of the best things about the holidays is all the yummy food. Make sure you avoid foods that can decrease your milk supply.
In all likelihood, the amount of sage in the stuffing will not have much of an impact on the average mom’s milk supply.
If you struggle with making enough milk, I would stay on the safe side and avoid any foods that have a reputation for decreasing supply.
3 – KNOW THE GUIDELINES FOR ALCOHOL AND BREASTFEEDING
Whether it is a glass of champagne on New Year’s Eve, a glass of wine with Christmas dinner, or some spiked hot cider, the chances are high that you will be offered an alcoholic beverage at some point during the holiday festivities.
It is safest not to have any alcohol while you are breastfeeding. However, if you time it properly, both the CDC and the American Academy of Pediatrics have given the green light for one alcoholic drink a day.
Know what constitutes one drink:
• 12 ounces of 5% beer
• 5 ounces of 12% wine
• 1 1/2 ounces of 40% alcohol
Alcohol transfers into your breastmilk within 30-60 minutes after you consume it. It will transfer out of your milk within about two to three hours.
If you have more than one drink, it will take longer for the alcohol to transfer out of your milk.
Pumping and dumping will not change the amount of time that is required for the alcohol to transfer out of your milk.
• The best plan is to limit yourself to one drink.
• Have your adult beverage right after you breastfeed or pump.
• Wait at least two hours after consuming alcohol before you breastfeed or pump again.
• If you decide that you will have more than one drink, you should make a plan for who will take responsibility for your baby if you become intoxicated.
4 – STAY WELL HYDRATED
This is an essential rule to follow every day.
Make sure that your water bottle continues to be your constant companion.
If you are going over to someone’s house, take your water bottle with you. Seeing your usual water bottle will remind you to drink. Using one like the Hydracy Water Bottle With Time Marker will let you know if you are drinking enough. It also has a fruit infuser strainer to add some interest to your water.
Another feature of the Hydracy Water Bottle With Time Marker that is essential for a mom whose arms are holding her baby is how easy it is to open with its spill proof flip top lid.
5 – EXPECT SLEEP DISRUPTIONS AND REGRESSIONS
Whether you travel to visit family or stay at home and host a holiday gathering, there will be a change in your baby’s routine. Often, as a result of those disruptions, parents will see a difference in their baby’s naps and nighttime sleep patterns.
• Your baby may sleep less than normal.
• Your baby may sleep more than usual during the day and want to eat more at night.
• Your baby may get fussy if he is sleeping less.
• A baby who has been sleeping through the night may experience a period where she wakes and wants to breastfeed in the middle of the night.
• Most of the sleep disruptions will be temporary.
• Do your best to stick to regular nap times and bedtime routines.
6 – WEAR NURSING FRIENDLY CLOTHES WHEN BREASTFEEDING DURING THE HOLIDAYS
It is fun to dress up for parties and holiday gatherings. But not all holiday clothes will lend themself well to breastfeeding or pumping.
Choose clothes that will make breastfeeding or pumping easy. That can be as easy as putting a tank on under your ugliest Christmas sweater so that your tummy doesn’t show when you pull your top up to breastfeed.
Consider treating yourself to a beautiful nursing dress from Undercover Mama. They are so affordable that you might want to get a couple of stylish pieces from them.
7 – BE PREPARED FOR QUESTIONS AND COMMENTS ABOUT BREASTFEEDING
When you have a baby, everyone acts like they are an expert about babies in general and often about your baby in particular. They don’t hesitate to give you unsolicited advice.
People may tell you that your baby is eating too frequently. How often a breastfed baby eats is a popular topic for those familiar with what is normal for a breastfeeding baby.
You may be told that you probably don’t have enough milk if your baby eats more often than they think a baby should.
Someone may suggest that your baby is too old to be still breastfeeding.
If breastfeeding is going well for you, don’t let other people’s ignorance about how it works cause a crisis in confidence for you.
There are a variety of ways to respond to questions and unsolicited advice.
• Smile and say thank you. Keep doing what you’re doing.
• Say, “My baby’s doctor told me to feed her when she is hungry.”
• If the comment is about your older baby or toddler continuing to nurse, tell them that the World Health Organization (WHO) recommends breastfeeding until at least two years old.
• A touch of humor with a spoonful of “it’s none of your business” will be the message if you say, “We’ve decided that we are going to be firm and make sure that he is weaned by the time he goes to college.”
• If the remark is related to how frequently you feed your baby, you can remind them that your baby is growing. Babies generally double their birth weight by five months and triple it by their first birthday. It takes a lot of calories to do that.
• Redirection works well. Instead of directly responding to an impolite question or unasked for advice, you can respond by saying, “That’s an interesting perspective. Do you have any fun plans this summer?”
8 – PLAN FOR REST BREAKS
Planning for downtime when you are breastfeeding during the holidays is a sanity saver.
• Don’t schedule too many events.
• Literally, schedule rest times in your calendar or planner.
• If you are spending the better part of the day at someone else’s home, ask them where you can lay down for a nap or just a chance to have some quiet time.
• Set a reminder on your phone.
9 – DON’T OVEREXTEND YOURSELF
Nobody wants to miss out on all the fun. But overcommitting is a recipe for frustration and meltdowns.
Learn the fine art of saying no. Or at least give yourself an out by not committing 100%. Say, “I’m not sure if we can make it. When do you need a firm RSVP by, or can we just play it by ear?” That way, if you find that you are just exhausted from all the holiday activities, you have an out.
It is okay to cancel last minute if your baby is having a bad day. Anyone who is a parent will understand.
10 – PLAY THE NEW MOM CARD WHEN YOU ARE BREASTFEEDING DURING THE HOLIDAYS
People will usually cut a new mom some slack during the holiday season.
• Don’t offer to host big meals or parties.
• If you say yes to a cookie exchange, make it easy on yourself. But some pre-made dough, so all you have to do is the baking and cleaning up. If that feels like more than you have time or energy for, just order some cookies from your local bakery. Don’t feel like you have to confess that your treats aren’t 100% homemade.
• Online ordering is your friend. It has built-in shipping so that you can skip a trip to the post office.
• Take a pass on greeting cards. Take a picture of your baby in a cute holiday outfit and email it to your friends and family.
• Instead of wrapping gifts, use gift bags. A bonus is that they are reusable, so they are more environmentally friendly than wrapping paper.
WHEN THE NEW YEAR ARRIVES DON’T GO OVERBOARD WITH WEIGHT LOSS ATTEMPTS
There is a reason that so many people make New Year’s resolutions related to weight loss. All that special food that is so popular during the holidays doesn’t usually fall into the low-calorie category.
It’s not unusual to pack on a few extra pounds from cookies and big meals.
Rapid weight loss is not recommended for a breastfeeding mom. A gradual approach will ultimately be more successful, and you won’t end up with a reduced milk supply.
You will be ahead of the game if you try not to throw caution to the wind with holiday eating. Commit to eating healthy meals except for those special meals.
FINAL THOUGHTS ON BREASTFEEDING DURING THE HOLIDAYS
With these eleven tips for breastfeeding during the holidays, it is possible to enjoy the season and stay on track with breastfeeding.
This is a demanding time of year, to be sure. You will be fine as long as you make sure that your priorities are taking care of yourself and your baby.
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Andrea Tran RN, MA, IBCLC
Andrea has been working with new families as an RN for over 35 years and a Lactation Consultant for over 25 years.
She has her MA in Health and Wellness with a focus in Lactation.