It’s baby’s first Christmas, your family is excited to share their traditions – gifts, food and family gatherings. Then there are the work and friends’ celebrations and pressure to shop, visit and travel.
The holiday season is a high-risk time for mothers to experience problems with breastfeeding, from a diminishing milk supply to mastitis. For a new mum, the holiday season can be overwhelming and exhausting. It can also impact your milk supply and may mean that your baby, sensing your own stress, becomes increasingly unsettled. Then, as relatives ask, ‘are you sure you have enough milk (here's a checklist to reassure you)?’ your self-doubt increases and you reach for the bottle. This is often described as ‘holiday weaning’.
But please take heart, we have top tips for you to beat holiday ‘boobie traps’ so you keep your boobs full and your baby at the breast.
Holiday boobie traps to avoid:
• As you shop, wrap and bake, you might be tempted to stretch out baby’s feeds. As a result, because you aren’t feeding frequently enough, your milk supply dwindles.
• At gatherings, everyone is playing ‘pass the baby’ and his early feeding signals can be missed. By the time you get him back, he is too tired to feed effectively so you are left with tight titties, risking blocked ducts and mastitis.
• You feel tense about getting your boobs out in front of creepy Uncle Tom and this affects your milk flow (your frustrated baby then likely pulls off and exposes more of your nipple!). You offer a bottle to your grizzly baby – your boobs don’t get emptied and so, they miss the memo to make more milk.
• Travelling with baby can mean he sleeps longer than usual in the car, resulting in mum’s bursting breasts. This, and the pressure of a seat belt across these full boobs, can mean blocked ducts, soreness or pain and a perfect set up for mastitis.
• Grandmothers desperate to get hold of the baby may undermine your breastfeeding by giving old fashioned advice that isn’t helpful and/or offering to give baby a bottle or grown-up food. In the early days, giving bottles can confuse baby’s sucking reflex and food they are not ready for can cause allergic reactions such as rashes and tummy aches.
So, how can breastfeeding mums avoid ‘holiday weaning’?
Delete. Delegate. Simplify. Just because its holiday time doesn’t mean there are any more hours in a day so ask friends and family for help if you need it. Remember, even the most easy-going newborn takes at least nine hours of basic care a day. Try to be realistic about what you can do without compromising your energy or your milk supply.
Schedule baby feeding breaks. A rigid breastfeeding schedule can compromise a healthy milk supply but it’s important to slot in time to rest and feed so you don’t unintentionally space feeds too far apart. Lying down to feed can help you rest and support your milk flow.
Schedule Mother feeding breaks. You need to nourish yourself to maintain your energy and your milk supply– breastfeeding burns around 500 calories a day! You also need to keep up your fluid intake to avoid dehydration and keep that mummy milk flowing.
Tip: take a water bottle and some Boobie Bikkies (they are individually wrapped) for a quick, nourishing snack on the go and download our FREE ebook 'Making More Mummy Milk,Naturally by Pinky McKay IBCLC for effective strategies to boost your milk supply.
Wear baby. Wearing baby in a carrier means you notice early feeding cues. It can also avoid other people playing ‘pass the baby’ and over stimulating your baby making him unsettled and over-tired so he doesn’t feed well.
Plan your support team. If you are attending family events, talk to your partner beforehand about how you can be prepared and what specific support you will need. If you are feeling vulnerable but have a supportive family member such as a sister, ask her to be your buddy for the day and help you with your baby or deflect unhelpful advice.
Be kind to yourself. This is the most important tip. You have nothing to prove. This season with your newborn is precious, and a lovely opportunity to create traditions in your own new family, without risking the sadness of weaning before you are ready.
Pinky McKay is Australia’s most recognised and respected breastfeeding expert. She’s an Internationally Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), best-selling author of Sleeping Like a Baby and Parenting by Heart (Penguin Random House) and host of podcast 'Tits Up". Pinky is also the creator of Boobie Foods, all natural and organic foods, scientifically formulated to nourish you as you breastfeed your baby. Download Pinky’s FREE ebook ‘Making More Mummy Milk, Naturally