Whether it’s holiday gatherings, holiday shopping, or children’s holiday productions, the holiday season can be very tricky when you’re breastfeeding. Holidays and breastfeeding can each be stressful on their own, so the combination can be overwhelming. Here are 9 tips for breastfeeding during the holidays (while maintaining your milk supply!).
1. Make a plan to remove milk.
The number 1 way to maintain milk supply is by adequately removing milk (not by eating lactation cookies). With a busy schedule, crowded parties, and general chaos, it can be tricky to make time for regular feedings. It is not uncommon to see an increase in mastitis cases during the holiday seasons. When you remove milk less often, you increase the risk for clogged ducts and mastitis.
If you are uncomfortable feeding in front of others, see if there is a private spot you can go. Try the two shirt method to help stay covered. If that’s not an option, plan to attend events around feedings so that you can feed your baby before or after.
Frequently removing milk is one of the best ways to make your breastmilk fattier as well!
2. Remember: you’re the parent.
If you don’t want people holding your baby, that’s fine. If you want to take your baby somewhere quiet to rest and recharge, it’s your call. If you want to breastfeed in public, do it. If you prefer to do so in private, that’s great too. Whatever works best for your family is what’s best for your family. You will probably hear many different opinions from many different people, but remember that you know your baby best.
3. It’s ok to enjoy holiday foods.
Unless your baby has an allergy, there’s no reason to avoid most foods while breastfeeding. There are a lot of old wives’ tales about certain foods causing gas or fussiness, however they are not true. You need to make sure you’re getting adequate nutrition while breastfeeding, so enjoy whatever foods sound good to you.
4. Make plans for air travel.
If flights are in your future, know that you can pack your pump and breastmilk (fresh or frozen) in carry-on. TSA will need to check the breast milk, but they shouldn’t touch it. Although there shouldn’t be any problems during security, it can be helpful to print out the TSA guidelines to bring with you. Not all agents are up to date with all policies.
Many airports now offer lounges for nursing and pumping. Breastfeeding at takeoff can help relieve your baby’s ears with the pressure change and help get them into a relaxed state for the rest of the flight.
5. Plan extra time for road trips.
It is not recommended to feed your baby while they are still in the car seat, so you’ll need to plan on making a few extra stops. It’s usually recommended to stop and take your baby out of their car seat around every 2 hours (yes, even if they’re sleeping).
You can plan on directly breastfeeding at each stop or you can pump on the road and offer a bottle so that any other road-trippers can help with feeding. If your baby has been refusing a bottle, there are many things you can try before your trip to increase acceptance.
Many electric pumps sell car adaptors or offer battery powered options. You also have the option of a manual pump, as long as you’re not driving. Make sure that you have a plan to either offer your milk to your baby within 4 hours or safely store it.
6. Enjoy a peppermint treat.
While it is true that excess peppermint may reduce your milk supply, having a peppermint treat now and then shouldn’t have much of an effect. It’s just as important for you to have a healthy relationship with food as it is for your children and one of the best ways to do that is by enjoying your favorite foods when they’re available.
7. A drink is ok too.
You may see a lot of information regarding whether or not it is ok to drink alcohol while breastfeeding. Alcohol is cleared from breastmilk at about the same rate it is cleared from the bloodstream. A general rule of thumb is that if you’re ok to drive, you’re ok to feed.
There are a few factors to keep in mind like the age of your baby, the time of the drinks, and how well your body handles alcohol (everyone is different). Of course if you feel better, you can always offer a bottle of pumped milk instead. Just remember tip #1 and make sure to not go too long without removing milk.
8. Use your baby as an excuse if you need to.
If an event is getting to be too much, feel free to use your baby as an excuse to leave or go somewhere private. It can give you a chance to rest and recharge (which may be necessary if you haven’t been getting enough sleep). No one will question a parent saying they need to step away with their baby for a few moments.
9. Take care of yourself too!
Make sure you’re eating and drinking enough. Try to get as much rest as possible. Ask for help when you need it. Breastfeeding can be a full time job and it’s easy to focus so much on the baby that the parent gets forgotten. So make sure to take care of yourself. You can’t pour from an empty pot.
If you’re looking for more breastfeeding tips or tips on how to feed your baby, check out my Feeding Infants Made Easy Course (coming soon)!
Krystyn Parks is a Registered Dietitian and Lactation Consultant who specializes in feeding children. She has a Master’s Degree in Nutritional Science from California State University Long Beach. She is an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant and has been registered with the Commission on Dietetic Registration since 2013.