With the holidays approaching, that often means changed schedules and routines. Whether it be to visit relatives or enjoy time away, you may be considering travel. Or, you may be planning on hosting a large dinner or even shopping for the perfect gift. The holidays can often be stressful, and adding in breastfeeding during the holidays, can add another challenge.
Consider: To go or not to go?
People often feel they must travel to visit relatives for the holidays because that’s what they’ve always done. Although traveling is rarely as predictable or as easy as we might like, traveling with a nursing baby can pose a new set of hurdles to overcome. Can it be done? Absolutely! Do you want to take on this added layer of holiday travel complexity? Maybe. Maybe not.
Having a new baby–nursing or otherwise–is often a good time to re-think entrenched habits and traditions. It’s even an opportunity for starting new traditions. Instead of traveling to a relative’s home out of obligation, consider your baby’s needs. Sometimes that may mean staying home. Consider all of the pros and cons to consider. And, remember, it’s okay if you decide to do something differently than you’ve done in the past.
If you go, plan how.
If you are traveling, consider how you’ll go–plane, train, or car. Traveling by car or train enables you to pack just about anything, and even over pack. Train travel, like Amtrak’s Auto Train, could have you eating and stretching minutes after boarding, with a full-packed car ready for your final destination. Air travel means baggage limits and finding a place to pump or nurse. Be sure to listen to our podcast on traveling through airports while breastfeeding or pumping.
Consider: To pump, or to nurse?
In some respects, nursing the baby is the simplest thing to do. The baby removes milk from your breasts better than any pump on the market, and there are no parts to wash or lose. But you may find yourself in an unfamiliar environment, or one where you have little control, so think it through beforehand.
Keep it simple.
If you decide to stay home, you may be entertaining the relatives. With the need to nurse your child added into the holiday mix, you’ll want to identify tasks that are time-sensitive or time-consuming. For example, you might want to skip the complicated recipes and fine china in favor of simpler recipes and paper plates.
Make a packing list. Check it twice.
If you’re traveling, take time to make a packing list of all of your “regular” items as well as feeding items. Don’t forget toys, teething rings, and replacements for pump accessories, including batteries. Also include extra diapers and clothes to prepare for travel delays.
Stay comfortable. Don’t be “overfull.”
Your breasts are never truly “empty.” (You always have more milk, just like you always have more tears.) However, your breasts can certainly be overly full. This happens when you put off nursing because you’re busy, distracted, or just having too much fun! Delaying nursing can lead to a plugged duct or mastitis; and even milk supply issue. Nurse your baby or express your milk as often as you normally do to avoid these issues.
Plan for public or private nursing.
With scads of people at home or mobs of people elsewhere, it’s not always easy to find privacy. You might feel completely comfortable nursing or pumping in front of your sister, but not in front of your Uncle Wilbur. (And Uncle Wilbur might not feel comfortable, either.) Plan ways to minimize your exposure. Most importantly, be sure that you’ve done a “dry run” on how to nurse or pump discreetly beforehand.
Be prepared for criticism.
Yes, you read that right. It’s time to be prepared for criticism. Many people will be supportive of your efforts. Yet, here are always those who have a snarky comment. Rehearse a few retorts that are respectful (or better yet, humorous!) so that these folks don’t get you down. I did an entire radio show on coping with criticism.
Minimize mall issues.
Online shopping is the ultimate fix-it strategy for eliminating the hassle of shopping at the mall. However, most of us end up going to the mall at one point or another.
If you’ve never left your nursing baby with someone before, now might not be the best time to try it. Plan ahead if you take your baby with you. If your baby is easily distracted in crowded or unfamiliar settings, call ahead to see if there is a quiet place to nurse. Many anchor stores offer nice lounges.
Eat, drink and be merry–in moderation.
Certainly, moderation is the key to consuming any food or beverage, whether you’re nursing or not!
Don’t hesitate to try foods that you don’t usually eat. Such foods probably won’t bother you or your baby at all. But try not to overindulge, just in case.
An occasional glass of wine isn’t likely to harm you or your baby. The latest statement from the American Academy of Pediatrics reiterates the long-standing research-based recommendations from the Institute of Medicine about alcohol consumption. Specifically, that “ingestion of alcoholic beverages should be minimized and limited to an occasional intake [of] no more than about 2 oz liquor, 8 oz wine, or 2 beers” and that the breastfeeding mother wait about 2 hours before nursing, to minimize the concentration of alcohol in her milk. (Experts no longer call on nursing moms to “pump and dump” before resuming feeding! Your body will process any alcohol in your milk, so there’s no reason to go through that hassle.)
Of course, this recommendation presumes that both you and the baby are healthy.
Dress up and feel good about yourself. Do your hair, maybe get a mani-pedi, and don’t hesitate to wear some sexy little dress that makes you look like the gorgeous woman you are. Worried about leaking? Don’t. A pair of LilyPadz is just the ticket for keeping you dry!
Celebration is a vital part of our lives. Celebrate love, celebrate life, including the new little life you have just brought into the world! Give thanks, and be happy for the holiday season!
What are your best tips to breastfeed through the holiday season?