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  • Naiomi Catron RNC, IBCLC

Breastfeeding During the Holiday Hustle

Updated: Dec 4, 2020

Rewind Edition - pre 2020:

The holidays are always a busy time - and with a new baby they can seem even more hectic. Trying to keep up with planning, shopping, hosting and attending events, and visiting relatives, can leave you exhausted and your breastfeeding baby cranky.

baby in a santa hat gazes at christmas tree ornament

Try to keep your baby on as much of a normal routine as possible. Try to avoid postponing or skipping breastfeeding or pumping sessions, as this can quickly lead to low milk supply. Maintain typical naptime and bedtime routines so that your baby stays well-rested, which can be a huge stress saver for you. With that said, some older babies will find a visit with friends and family super-fun and may not want to quit their adventure to go to sleep. So be flexible and expect to catch up the next day.

No matter what you find yourself doing over the holiday season, be sure to keep yourself at your best. Make sure you’re staying hydrated and eating enough good calories (rather than lots of sweets!). Allow extra time for everything, whether it’s simply getting to the mall with baby in tow or a trip to grandma’s house for several days. Pay close attention to how your baby is adjusting to any schedule changes, and pare back on activities, as needed.

Here are some additional tips for keeping everything running smoothly:

Hosting Guests

  • Regardless of your child’s age, this is probably the easiest scenario. You’ll be in your own baby-proofed home, you’ll have your favorite nursing chair, and your child will have their own toys and sleep space. It will be easier to keep your baby’s schedule closer to normal.

  • Hosting may require additional prep work - you’ll probably be rushing to get shopping and cleaning done. But remember that nobody is likely to care what your house looks like. They’re there to spend time with you and your family. So keep meals simple, don’t worry about a few cobwebs, and enjoy your guests.

Traveling by Car or Air

When traveling, be sure you’re set up for success. Dress comfortably and have diapers, wipes, extra clothes and blankets, and whatever you might need for baby care close at hand. You don’t want to have to dig through a packed suitcase or try to get into your carry-on luggage to find what you need.

If you’re traveling by car, plan frequent stops to get baby out of the car seat for breastfeeding. The lulling motion and white noise of a car ride can calm baby into missing feedings. And your little one might be wide awake once you reach your destination. So you might want to consider driving during your baby’s usual nap time or at night, and only stopping any time that would normally be baby’s feeding time.

If you’re traveling by air, find out the airline policies well in advance regarding a seat for your baby, a place for your stroller, if carry-on luggage and personal items have size limits, and what breastfeeding policies they have. Pack your diaper bag with enough diapers and wipes for the trip, extra clothes for both of you in case of an accident, and extra water for you. Plan to nurse your little one during take off and landing as this can ease the ear pressure buildup that might otherwise make your little one fussy. While you shouldn’t be shy about breastfeeding your baby any time you need to, a sling, wrap or even a blanket over your shoulder may give you more privacy.

If you happen to be traveling by air without your baby, be sure to read the policies of the airline, as well as the airports you’ll be passing through, regarding your breast pump and any pumped milk you might be carrying on your return home. For travel in the US, you can find some Transportation Security Administration (TSA) guidelines here and here. If you’re flying internationally, be sure to check the regulations for your destination country.

Being a Guest

If your baby isn’t yet crawling, this might be pretty easy. You’ll really only need to pack toys and a blanket, and all of your regular everyday needs. But if your baby is already mobile, you’ll need to be on high-alert if the space isn’t baby proofed!

Scout out places where you can breastfeed discreetly so your baby doesn’t get too distracted or your host isn’t uncomfortable. Bring everything you might need for feeding, including your breast pump if you use it regularly. If you are planning to pump, you may want to bring along a cooler to keep the milk in or ask your host about freezing it or keeping it in the fridge.

The Office Party

If you’re back to work and have an office party to attend, you may be worried about leaving your breastfeeding newborn (if you haven’t yet done so). Be sure to pump enough milk to leave with the sitter, and consider throwing your pump in a bag (or leaving it in the car) just in case you start to feel overly full when you’re apart. Or - if your baby is young enough - can you wear them in a sling and take them along. This is usually only possible with a newborn but it might be an option you can make work.

You might also be worried about having a glass of wine, beer or champagne to celebrate. The rule of thumb is that if you don’t feel the effects of the alcohol, you can safely breastfeed your baby. According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, you should typically allow about 2 hours between when you have your drink and when you feed your baby again. You can learn more about alcohol and breastfeeding in our previous blog posts here.

Avoid 'Accidental' Holiday Weaning

Yep - ‘holiday weaning’ is actually a thing. If you’re not planning on inadvertently ending your breastfeeding relationship during the holiday season and you want to maintain your milk supply, be sure to keep as close as possible to your normal breastfeeding schedule. This can be hard when you’re busy. If you’ve been running errands all day, you may have simply forgotten to stop and feed your baby until they’re super-fussy and your breasts are about to burst. For older babies, you may not even get those signals. Or you may be cleaning and baking, and postponing feedings to get ‘just one more thing’ done. Setting reminders on your phone might be useful.

Holiday weaning seems to happen more often with first time moms - after all, this is the first time they’ve had to juggle holiday preparations and infant care! But it can happen to anyone. Wearing your baby in a sling or wrap will keep them close enough that you notice early feeding cues. If grandma is enjoying snuggles with your sleeping baby, remind her to pass baby to you as soon as it seems like they start to wake (rather than ‘shush’-ing them back to sleep). If relatives are all taking turns holding your baby, remember this can be overstimulating and baby may sleep to shut it all out, making missed feedings more likely. Just being aware of this possibility will help you make sure you’re offering feedings often enough even if your baby isn’t demanding them.

Facing Criticism from Family and Friends

When you’re trying to enjoy time visiting with friends and family, it can be especially hurtful if they are criticizing your choice to breastfeed (or any of your parenting choices, really). Keep in mind comments are sometimes just meant to be helpful. When your mother says ‘Why don’t you just give him a bottle of formula?’ when she sees you struggling to get your fussy baby to latch, what she might really mean is ‘I hate to see you struggling because I care about you so much.’ Sometimes people make comments because they feel their own choices are being criticized. When you hear ‘I fed you formula and you turned out just fine’ what they might mean is ‘I feel like you think I made a bad choice by giving you formula.’

Keep in mind comments are sometimes just meant to be helpful. When your mother says ‘Why don’t you just give him a bottle of formula?’ when she sees you struggling to get your fussy baby to latch, what she might really mean is ‘I hate to see you struggling because I care about you so much.’

It’s difficult not to take these kinds of comments to heart. When someone makes a critical comment to you, you can try to educate them about why you decided to make the choice you did, you can let them know they are hurting your feelings, or you can use humor to diffuse the conversation and change the subject. The phrases ‘our doctor has suggested this,’ ‘this is what we have chosen for our family,’ or ‘this is what works for us’ will sometimes help to shift the conversation away from your feeding or parenting choices so you can continue enjoying your time together.

And just remember families are like fudge, mostly sweet with a few nuts!

funny quote families are like fudge mostly sweet with a few nuts


If you have more specific questions and would like expert advice from an IBCLC, for your individual breastfeeding questions, schedule a Virtual Consultation.

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