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During the holidays, planning ahead will make you an even more confident new mom amid chaos. My hope is that this article will help you get organized and breastfeed peacefully this holiday season!
Article sections (scroll to see):
• Tips for Traveling (by plane, train or car)
• Tips for Holiday Shopping
• Tips for Leaving Your Baby During the Holidays
• Tips for Handling the Noseys
• Tips for Resisting the Urge to Start Solids Too Soon
Involve Your Closest Supporters
First, talk to your closest supporters and partner about their role in keeping you and baby breastfeeding peacefully. Whether youre at the mall shopping, at the in-laws, or at church make sure that those closest to you can help normalize your breastfeeding if opinions and impositions start up. Going in to situations prepared, like knowing the law, or having some sweet ways of steering potentially contentious conversations can help you manage situations peacefully.
Pay close attention to your milk supply
It isn't at all uncommon for lactation consultants to see an increase in clients seeking guidance on milk supply, plugged ducts or slowed infant weight-gain after the holidays.
In addition to asking family to be your breastfeeding-guardians, asking them to help take responsibility off from you during the holidays will help your milk supply stay merry and high. If you're hosting family and have a new baby at home, ask them to help with older kids, or take over meals, and let them know ahead of time that breastfeeding or pumping will be going on in your house. Letting others take over your holiday kitchen is one of the hardest things many of us can fathom, but remember to focus on the one meal that no one else can make for your baby this holiday season...your yummy breastmilk for baby!
Practical Tips for Surviving the Holidays:
Tips for Traveling with Baby
From plotting out breastfeeding areas on airport and train-station maps, to planning your highway stops around breastfeeding-friendly rest-areas, thinking your stay through thoroughly can help you avoid uncomfortable nursing situations.
First, for domestic travel, check out your destinations laws about breastfeeding in public...for international travel, search the laws online or ask your hosts to help you find them.
Tips for traveling by air or train:
•When booking your travel, let your agent or airline personnel know that youll be traveling with a baby. Although separate seats are hard to come by during holiday travel, they may be able to offer you more private seating and give you specific instructions about traveling with strollers and car seats.
•Consider your fellow travelers. While you shouldn't ever need to apologize for your baby's "behavior", nicely acknowledge that your children will be patented during the trip and let others know you appreciate their patience with things like diapers and feeds. Visit this super neat website for airline traveling with baby.
•If possible, plan layovers with enough time to fully prepare your family for the next leg of the flight. This includes having enough time to walk clear across the airport, change diapers, feed baby, feed siblings, feed yourself, etc. For families that need them, many airports and train stations have mother-rooms and family rooms for when parenting moments require privacy. You can find a list of many of these here.
• If you're a family who bottlefeeds, get to know the rules of traveling with breastmilk or formula. If you're traveling internationally, remember to check with the layover countries or destination country's' equivalent to the United States' TSA or customs, since rules may different.
If you're traveling by car:
• When possible, plan your trip with plenty of time to care for and feed your baby as frequently as you would when you're at home. Trying to go long stretches without nursing can cause breast discomfort, plugged ducts, and a baby who may be too hungry to focus when you do finally stop to feed. In addition, waiting too long to stop and change diapers can lead to uncomfortable baby bums.
• Consider mapping out your drive and knowing where the most comfortable rest areas or truck stops for you and your family.
• Never feed a baby in a moving car, no matter how much time youre trying to save...and this goes without saying but never breastfeed and drive!
Quick tip Milk-Storage Tips
Tips for Holiday Shopping with a Baby
Breastfeeding and holiday shopping...a combination many wouldn't think they need to prepare for...until they're stuck in an hour-long line with a hungry or fussy baby.
Here are some tips to help you stay in the holiday spirit while shopping with your breastfed baby:
• Shop online! Granted, I don't know of any new mother who doesn't dream about leaving her house after a few weeks, but if it helps you avoid long lines and be available for your baby's every feeding cue, shop online!
If it's available in your area, consider using personal-grocery-shopper services like shipt.com, instacart.com or your local retailer's store-pick up service for basics like groceries, diapers, etc.
• If you must leave the house, consider shopping as a team with your friends...not only is this is a great excuse to get out of the house, this gives you the chance to finally spend time with the moms in your mommy groups. When the lines are long and your little one gets hungry, you can take turns watching each other's merchandise or holding each other's place in line while you nurse, diaper or settle your baby.
• Babywear! Being able to shop for longer periods of time is reason 1,528 why baby wearing is awesome. Besides, of course, having your sweet baby nuzzled against you. But really, imagine being able to have TWO HANDS free to look through clothes racks and try on shoes.
Tips for Leaving Your Baby This Holiday Season
Every year I get calls, too, from moms who want to attend holiday parties while breastfeeding. For many moms, it's their first time away from baby (and one of their first opportunities to drink, too 😁).
These are the top things families ask about with regard to leaving their babies for a few hours for the first time:
• I'll be gone from 6-12 pm. How much milk should I leave my baby?
It all depends on your babies age and weight, but doing a trial run a few days before can not only let you see how bottlefeeding could go, but it'll also give you a sense of how much your baby feels satisfied with. Some moms use breastmilk calculators available online to see more or less what their baby needs. Using the paced bottle feeding technique will also help baby pace their feeds similar to how they pace themselves at your breast.
• My party is next week but my baby has never taken a bottle. What do I do?
If you suspect your baby will ever need to be bottle-fed, introducing a bottle to your baby once breastfeeding is established can be a good idea. Whether you're going back to work, or simply leaving for a few hours to attend a holiday party, teaching a baby to take a bottle if you're planning for any type of separation will reduce stress for your baby, their caregiver and you!
• My party is next week. When do I start pumping?
My biggest recommendation would be to do a practice run of pumping to get a sense of how your breasts respond to the pump.
•And the famous one...I drank last night. Can I still breastfeed my baby.
Yes, probably...and the answer to that one is in this recent blog about drinking and breastfeeding.
Tips for Handling the Holiday Noseys
How long do you plan on breastfeeding? Why don't you just pump and bottlefeed? Doesn't it feel weird? I didn't breastfeed and my kids are fine...
In many cases, gatherings with friends and family are (sadly) synonymous with breastfeeding intrusiveness. When what you really want to hear is "How are you doing, mama?" what many inquiring minds seem to care about is how your baby eats. The irony here is that the commentary can come from both camps: from those who are "pro" breastfeeding, and from those who aren't.
Interestingly, Aunt Sally's story about how she breastfed all of her seven kids perfectly may not be what a struggling new mom breastfeeding mom wants rubbed in her face. And the mom who is confident in her breastfeeding (or any mom, really) doesn't need to hear about Aunt Bertha's breastfeeding horror stories. Engaging in breastfeeding banter over Christmas dinner can spark Uncle Johnny to make some untoward comment, so if at all possible, know when to curve convos, and ask your support folk to step in.
From both personal and professional experience working with both breastfeeding naysayers and breastfeeding sanctimommies, I find that it's best to simply listen, change the subject, or educate with the goal of normalizing.
Consider using one of these lines to stump the nosiest of friends or family:
•EDUCATE (with shock and awe): Why don't you just pump and feed? Because it's his spit on my nipple and areola that uploads his nutritional and immune need into me. Pumps and formula can't do that.
• LISTEN and CHANGE TOPIC: I fed my kids formula and they're fine. I'm glad your babies grew up to be healthy. How is cousin Tommy, btw?
And if you really just want to be snarky...
• How long do you plan on breastfeeding? Oh, he should be done in about 10 minutes. ;)
Remember too, that these same people will go on to ask about your choice in diapers, how long your baby sleeps at night, and whether or not you plan on getting pregnant again next month. The good thing is that if you feel the need to escape further conversation, you can always pull the breastmilk-poop blowout card. Sorry! Gotta go change the baby!
Tips for NOT Starting Solids Before Your Baby is Ready this Holiday
For even the most conscious of us it can be hard to resist not commemorating baby's first holidays with a milestone-memory. All too often, though, parents or well-intentioned family members want a sweet baby to experience the coming of age of starting solids or starting a food their body isn't able to properly handle. I get quite a few calls after the holidays from concerned mothers who didn't resist the temptation to wait until their baby was ready to start solids, or from frustrated moms whose cousin-in-law offered their baby ice-cream. Whether the temptation is on your part or on a friend or family members', if a baby's gut isn't ready even "just a taste" of something from the holiday table can lead you anywhere from gassiness to full on allergic reaction and an emergency room visit.
First, remember that the American Academy of Pediatrics recommend that babies be given only breastmilk (or formula) when they are mature enough.
Even if your baby is old enough and ready to start exploring new foods (see last hyperlink for readiness cues), ask yourself the following:
•How many ingredients does this food have? Starting with one-ingredient foods (for example, yams only) will help you identify causes of reactions better than wondering if the reaction came, for example, from the yams, the butter or the marshmallows. What if your baby isn't ready for eggs or dairy, yet you're tempered to offer your baby a bite of that cookie you're eating?
It's a good idea, too, to chat with your partner or support people about resisting the temptations and about being vigilant that others don't offer your baby food they aren't ready for. In fact, lt them know that there's only potential benefit to starting holiday solids before your baby is ready...and that's that they'll get to stay up with your baby all night and be able to catch a glimpse of Santa. ;)
Did you find these topics helpful? What other holiday survival advice could you use? And if you have some to share, please comment below!
I wish you and your babies the absolute breast this holiday season! 🎄
Although I've lovingly written this article is for all mothers, please understand that this article I written from a breastfeeding-as-the-norm perspective--understandably since I am a lactation consultant and this is a breastfeeding website. -Laura