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Top Tips for Breastfeeding During the Holidays

Listen to the Podcast, “Better Breastfeeding Through The Holidays” Holiday_cork_shutterstock_editResizeConsider: To go or not to go?
Very often, people feel they must travel to visit relatives for the holiday because that’s what they have always done. Although traveling is rarely as predictable or easy as we might like, traveling with a nursing baby can pose a new set of hurdles to overcome. Can it be done? Absolutely! Do you want to take on this added layer of holiday travel complexity? Maybe. Maybe not.

Having a new baby—nursing or otherwise—is often a good time to re-think entrenched habits and traditions; it’s even an opportunity for starting a new tradition. Instead of traveling to a relative’s home because we feel obligated to maintain the status quo, this may be a time to consider the obligation to put the baby’s needs first. Sometimes that may mean staying home. There are a number of pros and cons to consider, and it’s okay if you decide to do something different than usual this year.

If you go, plan how.
If you are traveling, consider how you’ll go—plane, train, or car. Traveling by car or train enables you to pack just about anything (or even overpack to include some might-need item). Baggage limits for air travel usually mean you can only must-have items. Finding a place to pump or nurse—no matter how you get where you’re going–opens up another set of logistical questions. Certainly, it can be done, but think it through before you do it. (If you’re flying, we hope there’s a Mamava at the airport you’ll use!)

Have you considered the train? When I give a course in Orlando, I always take Amtrak’s autotrain. There’s no hassle of taking off my shoes or going through security, and within 10 minutes of boarding, I can be eating, stretching, using my computer, or emptying my bladder—and I can do those activities (and many more) as often as I wish—without ever having to worry about a seatbelt or finding a place to pull over! Plus, my fully-packed car is ready to go to my final destination. How cool is that?

Consider: To pump, or to nurse?
In some respects, nursing the baby is the simplest thing to do. The baby removes milk from your breasts better than any pump on the market, and there are no parts to wash or lose. But you may find yourself in an unfamiliar environment, or one where you have little control, so think it through beforehand.

Keep it simple.
If you decide to stay home, you may be entertaining the relatives. With the need to nurse your child added into the holiday mix, you’ll want to identify tasks that are time-sensitive or time-consuming. For example, you might want to skip the complicated recipes and fine china in favor of simpler recipes and paper plates. Better yet, consider hosting a dessert-themed party where all of the relatives bring a yummy treat to share. 

Minimize mall issues.
Online shopping is the ultimate fix-it strategy for eliminating the hassle of shopping at the mall. However, most of us end up going to the mall either for a specific item, or because our friends or relatives are shopping, and it’s a social thing to go along.
If you’ve never left your nursing baby with someone before, now might not be the best time to try it. If you take your baby with you to the mall, and if your baby is easily distracted in crowded or unfamiliar settings, call ahead to see if there is a quiet place to nurse. Many anchor stores have nice lounges available.

Make a packing list. Check it twice.
If you’re traveling, take time to make a packing list of all of your “regular” items as well as all of your feeding items—including whatever you need for nursing or pumping, as well as water and snacks for yourself and soft foods or finger-food snacks for an older nursing baby. A must-have: at least 25% more diapers than you would ordinary plan for your baby. (A change of diet or routine can lead to a change in baby’s diaper habits!) Don’t forget toys, teething rings, and replacements for pump accessories, including batteries.

Stay comfortable. Don’t be “overfull.”
Although your breasts are never truly “empty” (you always have more milk, just like you always have more tears), your breasts can certainly be overly full. This happens when you put off nursing because you’re busy, distracted, or even just having too much fun! Delaying nursing can lead to a plugged duct or mastitis; it can also cause milk supply issue. Nurse your baby or express your milk as often as you normally do, to avoid these issues.

Plan for public or private nursing.
With scads of people at home or mobs of people elsewhere, it’s not always easy to find privacy. You might feel completely comfortable nursing or pumping in front of your sister, but not in front of your Uncle Wilbur. (And Uncle Wilbur might not feel comfortable, either.) Plan ways to minimize your exposure. Most importantly, be sure that you’ve done a “dry run” on how to nurse or pump discreetly before you have those people around you.

Be prepared for criticism.
Yes, you read that right. It’s time to be prepared for criticism. Although many people will be supportive of your efforts, there are always those who have a snarky comment. Rehearse a few retorts that are respectful (or better yet, humorous!) so that these folks don’t get you down. I did an entire radio show on coping with criticism. Feel free to use some of those “sound bites” as needed!

Eat, drink and be merry—in moderation.
Certainly, moderation is the key to consuming any food or beverage, whether you’re nursing or not!

Don’t hesitate to try foods that you don’t usually eat. Such foods probably won’t bother you or your baby at all. But try not to overindulge, just in case. And, be sure to have extra diapers on hand in case your baby is affected!

An occasional glass of wine isn’t likely harm to your healthy baby. Based on research from the Institute of Medicine, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that “ingestion of alcoholic beverages should be minimized and limited to an occasional intake [of] no more than about 2 oz liquor, 8 oz wine, or 2 beers” and that the breastfeeding mother wait about 2 hours before nursing, to minimize the concentration of alcohol in her milk. (If it sounds like a pain, be comforted in knowing  that experts no longer call on nursing moms to “pump and dump” before resuming feeding! Any alcohol in your milk will be processed by your body, so there’s no reason to go through that hassle.)

Of course, this advice presumes that both you and the baby are healthy.
Dress up and feel good about yourself. Do your hair, maybe get a mani-pedi, and don’t hesitate to wear some sexy little dress that makes you look like the gorgeous woman you are. Worried about leaking? Don’t. A pair of LilyPadz is just the ticket for keeping you dry!

Celebration is a vital part of our lives. Celebrate love, celebrate life, including the new little life you have just brought into the world! Give thanks, and be happy for the holidays!
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