Avoiding Nursing Nightmares During the Holidays
By Jennifer Hafele, M.Ed., IBCLC, Mama Bear Lactation Care
The holiday season can be the most wonderful time of the year. Family and friends gather to celebrate and ooh and ahh over your baby. The food is fantastic, decorations lovely, and music delightful. However, without careful attention, your wonderful time can unintentionally spiral into a nightmare for you and your breastfeeding relationship.
Multiple holiday factors threaten nursing success. Travel can make stopping to nurse or pump a challenge. Where to stop? Is it private? Quiet? Warm? Clean? Where is an outlet? Look at the time, we’re going to be late!
Upon arrival, challenges continue. Strange noises, people, lights, and smells can distract baby and lead to less-than-optimal feedings. Unsupportive family or friends can make nursing uncomfortable or prevent it altogether. Do you have that one relative who insists on feeding baby a bottle? And then it’s time to travel home or to the next place.
The internal and external pressure of trying to please everyone and do “all the things” can leave you frustrated, tired, and anxious. The truth is that holiday stress and activities can threaten your health (with plugged ducts and mastitis), your milk supply, and your breastfeeding relationship.
The key word is “can.” With the right plan and preparation, the holidays can also be a wonderful time with your new family. Here are some tips to avoid nursing nightmares:
1. Recalibrate. Let’s be honest. This holiday season is going to be different. It must be given your growing family. Give yourself permission to not be all things to all people during this season. Thus, you need to recalibrate your expectations. Don’t overcommit. Less is more!
2. Engage. Resist the urge to attempt the holidays alone. Strong communication with your partner and breastfeeding advocates is important. Discuss what you and your baby need. Engage your team to help you navigate holiday challenges. When you are on the same page, you can avoid many of the biggest stressors.
3. Sustain. For most, the holidays are a marathon, not a sprint. Sustain your sanity and your supply by eating plenty of nutritious calories (not just the chocolates!) and staying well-hydrated. Take breaks as needed to feed, rest, and find peace and restoration.
4. Treasure. Set an intention to enjoy your baby and the holidays! Listen to your body and your baby so that you don’t miss cues that can bump you off track. Careful planning, preparation, support, and implementation will help ensure memories you will treasure.
Finally, should things ever get off track, don’t hesitate to advocate for yourself. I once had a client who suffered through mastitis without contacting me for tips because she was afraid to be a bother during my holidays. I wish she would have called! Health professionals are here to help, so please reach out. Happy and healthy holidays to you and your family!
Jennifer Hafele is active in the Chippewa Valley birth and postpartum care community. She provides professional lactation support through her private practice, Mama Bear Lactation Care. Offering a free support group is a cornerstone of her practice. She also loves co-teaching “Confident Birth & Beyond,” an independent childbirth and postpartum education series. Connect with Jennifer on Facebook or at MamaBearLactationCare.com.