During the holiday season, breastfeeding specialists and support groups anticipate more calls about low milk production, fussy babies, breast pain, and nursing strikes. With all the excitement and activity, it is no wonder that breastfeeding can be unintentionally disrupted leading to these common problems. Moms are often much busier than usual with additional shopping, cooking, and travel. Family and friends are eager to meet the new baby, and feedings may be delayed or missed when baby is away from mom (even in the next room!).
- Breastfeeding infrequently can lead to plugged ducts or mastitis due to milk stasis. This means milk “backs up” in the ducts rather than being removed.
- Breastfeeding infrequently, or replacing breastfeeding with bottle-feeding without pumping in place of missed feedings can cause a reduction in milk production over time. Less milk removed eventually equals less milk made.
- Family and friends are eager to hold the baby, but passing him around can lead to infrequent feedings, fussiness, or shutting down (baby goes into a deep sleep and is not easily roused).
- In older babies and toddlers, disruption in routines and less-frequent nursing can cause a nursing strike or premature weaning.
- Eating large quantities of holiday treats that contain concentrated amounts of anti-lactogenic herbs such as cooking sage, parsley, or peppermint can cause a decrease in milk production, especially in women who already have difficulty maintaining it. Dressing (also known as stuffing) and mint candies that are made with peppermint oil are seasonal treats that may contain these herbs. These herbs are not thought to be problematic in normal culinary amounts.
- Tell family and friends that you are breastfeeding and that it is important to you. Make it clear that if baby fusses he needs to come back to you.
- Plan to take care of your baby as much as possible rather than let someone else take care of him. When friends and family ask to help, offer them a choice of tasks from your to-do list.
- Keep your baby close to you. A traditional carrier or soft baby carrier (sling, wrap, etc.) will help you keep your baby close for nursing and avoid the over stimulation that may result from his being “passed around.” Babywearing will help reduce your baby’s exposure to new germs, too!
- Avoid missed feedings. Set your phone or watch with an alarm for feeding reminders. Baby is less likely to cue to nurse on his own if he is feeling over stimulated or over-tired.
- If your baby is too distracted to nurse effectively or at all, try going to a room away from other people and other distractions such as flashing Christmas lights. The brief time away might even help you feel rested and recharged, too!
- If you will be traveling, leave early and plan to make regular rest stops along the way. Most babies will let you know with certainty when they need a break. Some babies are content to sleep soundly during car travel and may need to be awakened for nursing.
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