Breastfeeding Through The Holidays: New Parent Edition

With the holidays fast approaching, we know you're probably as busy as can be preparing food, getting your house clean, purchasing and wrapping gifts, packing (if you're traveling), and oh yeah(!), parenting a new baby.

I thought that my first holiday season as a parent would be magical.   I would finally have a baby to wrap presents for and place under the tree.  Well, it turns out that my daughter was only 2 months old, nursing constantly, NEVER SLEEPING, and clearly didn't have the mental or physical capacity to tear open presents on Christmas morning.  It turned out to be a lovely holiday as a family of three, but not exactly what I had expected in my pre-parent (read: very naive) mind.

In addition to the hustle and bustle of Christmas season, traveling, and NEVER SLEEPING, I was a brand new breastfeeding mother.  We had created a pretty solid breastfeeding relationship from the start, but of course there were still moments of working on latch, figuring out how to remove a sleeping baby from my breast (who am I kidding?  she was NEVER SLEEPING), and the always-frustrating process of unclasping my nursing bra, pulling the top shirt up, the under shirt down, and trying not to expose too much skin to the cold December air.  

We were planning to travel to our hometowns for the holidays and I quickly realized how breastfeeding might impact our travel plans.  Now that I'm less of an amateur and have breastfed through three Christmases between two different babies and traveled many times, I can share some of the best tips that I've learned along the way for breastfeeding through the holidays.

  1. Feed your baby wherever he/she is hungry.  This can be a hard one--I know.  Especially if you come from a bottle-feeding family.  Breastfeeding may be uncomfortable for some to see and even the most well-meaning comments may be hurtful.  I quickly realized that if I didn't learn to be comfortable with myself and my baby, I would be spending 80% of our trip locked in our bedroom.  What's the point of traveling to spend time with family if you're going to seclude yourself so much? Plus, I already spent enough time in that small bedroom, you know... NEVER SLEEPING.
  2. Feed your baby in another room.  Yes, you just read that.  If feeding your baby is going to make someone else feel uncomfortable, I can get over that.  But if YOU are uncomfortable for any reason, feel free to excuse yourself and spend some time alone.  While I nursed in the company of others for the most part, I also found that my introvert-at-heart nature required some alone time.  What a perfect excuse to chill in the quiet for a bit!  There were also times when my little 9 week old babe was having a difficult time nursing or getting uncomfortable with all of the distractions and noise around.  Escaping to a quiet room and relaxing a little gave her an opportunity to calm down and eat, and gave us the opportunity to reconnect.
  3. If you want to use a cover, cover up!  If you're uncomfortable with others seeing your breast and you're still working out how to be discreet, throw a nursing cover or baby blanket over your chest.  Your baby can sense your unease if you're feeling anxiety. 
  4. Choose your wardrobe carefully!  If you're attending a party, event, or church and want to dress more formal, don't just grab any old pre-baby flowy dress or blouse that you can find.  Nothing is worse than being in public and realizing that the only way that your baby can access his food source is to lift your dress up from the bottom all the way to your shoulders.  And yes, unfortunately, I am speaking from experience.
  5. Layer!  If you're going to be in a cold climate and sweaters are necessary, I found that wearing layers of accessible clothing made all the difference. A nursing bra, a nursing tank top, a loose fitting or flowy top and an open sweater or cardigan became my go-to winter attire.
  6. Bring your own snack and drinks if you're traveling!  Any breastfeeding mama knows that it takes a lot of work to grow another human and then feed it as well.  We need to eat and drink!  But you can't always assume that your hosts will have snacks that you like or need.  And if you're staying in a hotel, you definitely need to stock up before you travel.   Packing your own snacks like trail mix or healthy bars and remembering your own water bottle can make all the difference.  Plus, if you're like me, you need extra food to keep your energy up.  You know, because maybe you're NEVER SLEEPING.
  7. Plan for traveling stops.  It's just going to happen.  New babies need to eat frequently and your 4 hour trip may turn out to be 6 hours.  Plan accordingly.
  8. Bring your kindle or book.   You might be like me and go through 3 books per week while you're nursing and NEVER SLEEPING.

If  you're expecting now and won't be nursing until the holiday season of 2017, check out our Breastfeeding Foundations class to get you on the right track so that by December next year you'll be a pro!