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Top Tips for Breastfeeding During the Holidays

Woman breastfeeding next to a Christmas tree during the holidays.

Ah, yes. Everyone in the household is excited and spreading good cheer for the holiday season. The baby has settled into a happy cadence of breastfeeding but … how will it work during the holidays? If you’re wondering how you can continue breastfeeding during the holidays, here are a few simple tips.

Consider: To go or not to go?

People often feel obligated to 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 feeling an obligation to travel to a relative’s home, consider your baby’s needs. Staying home may be a better idea for this year.

Here’s another possibility. Offer to provide the “house” and ask relatives to bring food that can be easily prepared or easily re-warmed. Be sure to also line up someone who would be willing to help with the clean-up afterwards.

If that still feels too complicated, have a simple meal for your immediate family, and invite everyone to bring a dessert later in the day or in the early evening. Let’s face it: Everyone looks forward to the dessert, right?

List all your options and consider all the pros and cons of each. And remember, it’s okay if you decide to do something differently than you’ve done in the past.

If you go, plan ahead.

If you’re 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 and your family eating and stretching minutes after boarding. No more waiting for the seatbelt sign to go off, and no more stiff legs. Best of all, you’ll arrive with a fully packed car ready to drive to your final destination.

If you’re breastfeeding during the holidays, you’ll want to think through all the ramifications of flying. Air travel means baggage limits and finding a place to pump or nurse. 

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 over which you have little control, so think it through beforehand.

Keep it simple.

If you decide to stay home, you may be entertaining the relatives. Breastfeeding during the holidays means you need to figure out how to add it into the holiday mix. At the very least, 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 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 a reduced milk supply. If you’re breastfeeding during the holidays, be intentional about nursing 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.

Everyone is different. 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.) Have a plan for where you are comfortable nursing. Most importantly, be sure that you’ve done a “dry run” on how to nurse or pump comfortably 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, there 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 podcast 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.

Breastfeeding during the holidays might force you into thinking about leaving your baby with someone else or taking the baby with you for a shopping trip or some other activity. 

If you’ve never left your nursing baby with someone before, now might not be the best time to try it. If you take your baby with you, plan your trip. If your baby is easily distracted in crowded or unfamiliar settings, call ahead to see if there’s 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.

If you decide to partake in an alcoholic beverage, I’ve previously addressed how to minimize the effects of alcohol here.

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.

Another part of the merry-making goes beyond food and drink.

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 continue breastfeeding during the holiday season?

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