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Weekend Doctor: Breastfeeding during the holidays

By Wendy Broadhead, BA, IBCLC, CBS Blanchard Valley Health System Lactation Team

This time of year can pose quite a challenge for nursing mothers. While the joy of the holidays is among us, with it all comes the business and stress of family gatherings, decorating, cooking, shopping, wrapping and other holiday activities. This is also the season where we often see more upper respiratory infections. 

Studies show that breast milk helps to protect infants and toddlers from infections that are common during this season. However, breastfeeding and pumping can be unusually challenging for parents during this time, as we engage ourselves in all the extra activities the holidays seemingly demand from our already busy lives. 

Many mothers experience a phenomenon called “accidental weaning.” This happens when a nursing mother is busy and the time between breastfeeding and pumping sessions get stretched further and further apart. This leads to more bottles being given so they can “get things done.” This also effectively lowers milk supply. Many moms can’t do it all, every day. So, here are some tips to help nursing mothers through the season of joy, while protecting their breastfeeding relationship with their little bundle of joy.

Wear your baby. Baby wearing keeps baby from being passed around as often when with family and friends and helps you to observe and respond to baby’s early hunger cues. Your family and friends will be less likely to ask to hold baby if he or she is being worn. As a bonus, this also reduces the risk of others sharing their germs with baby.

Delegate tasks. If friends or relatives want to help, give them a task rather than the baby. Cleaning, running errands, washing dishes, watching that dish cooking on the stove, etc. Don’t be shy.

Remind relatives to pass baby back to you. If someone is cuddling with your sleeping baby, remind him or her to get you when baby starts to wake. Well-meaning relatives may “shush” and rock your baby thinking that they are helping you enjoy yourself, but they may also unconsciously be the cause of baby not nursing often enough.

Dress for easy access. If you’re out and about at a party, celebration or shopping, make sure you wear clothing that gives you easy access, so you can nurse without much hassle. Tank tops with button up long sleeve shirts make great breastfeeding layers this time of year.

Plan for plenty of driving breaks. If traveling by car, allow lots of time for nursing breaks. You should never breastfeed or bottle feed in a moving car. Bottles become projectiles in the event of a crash. Infants and toddlers can have motion sickness and food/milk can become a choking hazard while a vehicle is in motion. If bottle feeding, attend to the bottle. Never prop a bottle.  Also, feeding breaks give everyone a chance to stretch their legs. 

For more suggestions, tips and breastfeeding support, contact your local IBCLC (International Board-Certified Lactation Consultant).