Navigating Breastfeeding During the Holidays

Mind Body Baby
Mind Body Baby

Elizabeth Tucker
MBB Studio Manager & Yoga Teacher
ProDoula Certified Infant Feeding Educator

The holidays are upon us and if you are currently breastfeeding your little one, you might feel unsure of how to navigate a busy social season while still meeting your baby’s needs, as well as your own. I’ve compiled a list of my best tips to keep your stress levels to a minimum while still getting to enjoy yourself and keeping your baby nourished!

Plan Ahead

Breastfeeding is hard in winter. So. Many. Layers. Try to plan your outfits ahead of time. I always preferred wearing a nursing camisole (like these budget-friendly ones from Target) that doubles as an undershirt and a bra. That way you can lift up your sweater and unclip the camisole strap for minimal belly exposure. For a more dressed up style, look for festive ’fits that button or zip up the front, or a wrap style that can be pulled to one side for easy access. And of course, there are so many stylish nursing covers available these days that can double as a scarf, car seat cover, blanket…you name it!

Sneak Away

Whether you’re heading out of the house for a couple of hours or a few days, chat with your host ahead of time and ask if there is a quiet, private space you can use to nurse in. If your baby is easily distracted while nursing, or if you’re anything like me and get overstimulated in large groups, having a space to sneak away to will be a very welcome break! And even if baby only nurses for 15 minutes, feel free to hide away longer if you need it! No one will know otherwise.

Go-To Phrases

Family get-togethers can be a time of joy but also a bit stressful if you’re shielding unwelcome comments from *assumed* well-meaning relatives. Consider some go-to phrases to keep in your back pocket so you’re ready to respond to anything. Science and humor tend to go a long way!
“Yes, Aunt (insert name), I know he is getting enough milk from me because his weight is in the 80th percentile and he is growing just as our pediatrician would expect, as well as producing several wet and dirty diapers throughout the day!”
“This is a personal family decision and we’ll plan on stopping when we all feel ready.”
“Thanks for your concern but we’re/I’m parenting the way that feels right to us/me.”
“Actually, I was planning to stop when she goes off to college!” (make sure nobody has a turkey leg in their mouth before dropping that one)

Avoid Holiday Weaning

Whether you are feeding/pumping on a schedule or on-demand, try to stick to your routine as closely as possible, even with all the social outings and holiday to-dos. This will help you avoid what’s commonly known as “holiday weaning” – an unintentional drop in nursing or pumping sessions simply due to a hectic schedule, that in turn impacts your supply and does end up leading to actual weaning that maybe you weren’t ready for. Re-visit your goals and your “why” and make a plan to try and stick with your usual feeding routine.

Watch Ingredients

Some herbs and ingredients, when used in excessive amounts, can decrease milk supply. Cabbage, oregano, parsley, peppermint/menthol, sage, spearmint, and thyme are more commonly used in holiday cooking. The amounts used in standard cooking are so small that they are unlikely to be of concern, so don’t worry if you catch your mom sprinkling sage in the stuffing. Nonetheless it’s always great to be mindful of what you are consuming and try to avoid supply-impacting ingredients in excess.

Drink Responsibly

After being limited for 9+ months you may be ready to enjoy a festive cocktail. There is mixed literature on how to do this safely while nursing. The CDC states that up to 1 standard drink (12 oz of beer, 5 oz of wine, 1.5 oz of liquor) per day is not known to be harmful to infants, especially if you wait at least 2 hours after a single drink before nursing again. If you want to have more than one, or plan to imbibe over a longer period of time, you may want to have some bottles of breastmilk or formula on standby for baby. You can hand express or pump and dump to relieve engorgement pain, keep supply up, and prevent mastitis. And of course the safest route would be no alcohol at all, in which case you can still have fun with some festive mocktails!

Just Say No

If the above tips don’t seem manageable or make you feel even more overwhelmed, remember it’s always okay to just say “no thanks” to a social invite. Honor the seasonality of the phase you’re currently in and remember it won’t last forever. You’re a mama now – you’ve got to put you AND your child’s wellbeing first, and you’ve got to protect your peace. You don’t owe anyone an explanation or apology. Do you, mama!

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