During the holidays, there are a few obstacles that breastfeeding moms have to overcome. Here are our tips to make your life that much easier.
In the last post, we identified four basic needs of all breastfed newborns — during the holiday season, or really anytime of the year. Now, let’s examine five main barriers during the holiday season and ideas to skirt around them:
- Stress: The holidays can be a lot of fun but also be stressful! Stress can temporarily reduce your milk supply. Try to reduce your stress as much as possible through less scheduling, simple living, and healthy coping skills. To make up for the stress that’s unavoidable, spend lots and lots of time with your baby, doing skin-to-skin contact and letting baby breastfeed as much as she wants.
- Busyness: There is so much to do to get ready for the holidays. The decorating, baking, shopping, and visiting relatives — it all makes for a lot that can seem difficult to juggle with breastfeeding. After all, who has time to just sit down, put her feet up, and breastfeed baby? You need to take the time. Make sure to plan for wiggle room between your outings and busyness to spend lots and lots of time with your baby and let baby breastfeed as much as he wants. Wearing baby in a sling, wrap, or other soft carrier can keep baby close while you’re on the move, too.
- Traveling: Whether going by road, train, or plane, traveling combines stress and busyness. I remember taking road trips with newborns and trying to figure out how to juggle breastfeeding with driving. Beyond breastfeeding, babies want time out of their car seat for a change in scenery and snuggling with mom, so plan for extra stops anyway. Some moms prefer giving a bottle of breast milk while on the road, but remember that to maintain your milk supply, you still need to pump at that bottle-feeding. so don’t forget your breast pump and car adapter.
- Cold: At least here in the States, it’s cold during the holidays! Even in the house, it may be hard to convince yourself to try skin-to-skin contact. You can use a light blanket over the two of you — keeping her face clear — while doing skin-to-skin. Remember, your body temperature will compensate for the house temperature and keep baby warm. You can use a light blanket when breastfeeding, too, to stay warmer. It may be easier to do this with the side-lying and laid-back positions.
- Relatives: This is perhaps the biggest barrier of the holidays, if your relatives are not the most breastfeeding-friendly group. It is easier around relatives to give in to suggestions to just give a bottle, to skip pumping sessions, to let them hold baby all day long and delay feedings, to try to sleep on separate sleep surfaces when you normally bedshare, to let baby cry at night, or any number of other approaches to caring for your newborn that is counter to breastfeeding success or your own parenting convictions.More than any other time of your life, you may have to be the most courageous of standing up and speaking out for yourself and your baby. So remember why you’re breastfeeding in the first place and stick to that, even when relatives accuse of you being manipulated by baby, selfish for wanting to hold baby more than them, antisocial for excusing yourself to breastfeed, indecent for breastfeeding among others even with a cover, overly sensitive for not allowing baby to cry it out at night, or any other messages that may be communicated, verbally or subtly. Remember, your time with your relatives is short in the whole scheme of things and that you are your baby’s mother, not any of them, so you reserve the right to parent your baby the way you want to, not however they may want you to.
The bottom line to overcoming any of these barriers is the importance of knowing that breastfeeding is important to you, that you want to be successful in breastfeeding, and that breastfeeding is what your baby needs, not merely wants — and then advocating for yourself and baby.
I was just sharing with a client yesterday who is breastfeeding her baby beautifully but is concerned because she never took a breastfeeding class or read any books — we lactation professionals and paraprofessionals talk about about technicalities, but so, so much of breastfeeding is about letting go of expectations and learning to go with the flow of what your baby needs. In most cases, it’s 10% know-how and 90% wanting to do it.
Breastfeeding is a relationship, and success with it — much of the time — is learning the give-and-take dance of each unique mother-baby relationship.
It can be difficult to learn this dance during the holidays, but by advocating for the importance of doing so during the holidays, you can emerge in January still breastfeeding — and breastfeeding well!