During the holiday season, breastfeeding specialists and support groups everywhere anticipate more calls about low milk production, fussy babies, breast pain, and nursing strikes. Moms are often much busier than usual. Shopping, cooking, traveling, and visiting relatives are on the seemingly endless list of stuff to do. Family and friends are eager to meet the new baby, and feedings can be delayed or missed when baby is away from mom (even in the next room!). With all the excitement and activity, it is no wonder that breastfeeding can be unintentionally disrupted.
- Breastfeeding infrequently can lead to plugged ducts or mastitis due to milk stasis (milk is not removed from the breast or is removed less frequently).
- Breastfeeding infrequently and replacing breastfeeding with bottle-feeding can cause a reduction in milk production over time.
- Baby being “passed around” by other people 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 traditional American holiday treats that contain concentrated amounts of anti-lactogenic herbs like 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.
- Tell your and your partner’s family and friends that you are breastfeeding and that it is important to you. Assure they understand it is a joy, not a burden.
- When friends and family ask to help, offer them a choice of tasks. Plan to take care of your baby as much as possible rather than let someone else take care of him.
- 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.
- Set your phone or watch to signal you with feeding reminders rather than count on your baby to tell you when he is hungry. 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 pretty 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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