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The holiday season is a a wonderful time of the year, but it can also be very busy and pose some challenges for new moms! With so many things going on, it can be difficult to balance the needs of a baby, family traditions and expectations, and taking care of yourself.
These are some tips we have gleaned from other mothers and families over the years. We hope they help you have a happy and healthy holiday season.
1. The most important thing is to MAKE TIME TO NURSE YOUR BABY. Many times mothers say their babies "weaned themselves" during the holidays. Or mom gets plugged ducts and/or mastitis and spends the holidays sick. The main cause of this is babies not nursing enough, being distracted by all the busyness, and getting too many bottles while mom is out shopping or making other holiday preparations.
Some mothers have found it helpful to set a timer to remind them to sit and nurse when things are busy. Some babies need to nurse in a quiet location away from all the hustle and bustle so they can focus on eating without distraction. Babies are very portable, so taking baby with you and making a point to stop and nurse can be better than leaving baby and going for long periods of time without breastfeeding/pumping while out and about. **If you suspect plugged ducts and/or mastitis, CALL A LEADER to get help.**
2. Set realistic expectations and prioritize what is important to YOU and your family.
Accept that this holiday season with baby will be different than years past. You may not be able to do everything you "always" do or have done because you have to consider your own limitations and your baby's needs. That is okay. Your baby does not need a picture perfect holiday with magazine-worthy decorations and a gourmet meal. He/she needs a happy, healthy mother who is enjoying her baby and making memories. Some mothers have found it helpful to make a list of everything you normallly do (parties, activities, baking, decorations, etc), and then decide what you actually ENJOY doing. (And are there things that no one likes?!?) Focus on making memories and doing what works for you and your baby this year! Be gentle with yourself, snuggle and nurse your baby, be honest with others, and ask for help or say no.
3. Dealing with criticism / Nursing at holiday gatherings.
One of the most wonderful parts of the holiday season is spending time with friends and family. But this can also present a challenge for some mothers because some of our loved ones may not be comfortable with breastfeeding or may not be familiar with current baby care recommendations. This can put the mother and her family in an awkward situation as she tries to meet her baby's needs and participate in the festivities. There are many ways to deal with questions and criticism including educating the loved one, changing the subject, and using humor. Being prepared with a simple "this is working for us" and then changing the subject can be helpful. Some mothers like to use a cover for nursing during family gatherings to help other feel more comfortable. Some mothers like to give relatives some warning ("Time for little one to eat...") as they prepare to nurse. Some mothers are more comfortable going into another room and enjoy the quiet moment with their baby. The important thing is to do what will work for you and your baby and won't make you feel isolated or resentful. A LLL meeting is a great place to get tips on nursing in public and gain confidence.
4. Traveling with baby. Travelling to see loved ones is exciting, but may seem like a logistical challenge. If travelling by car, remember that this trip will take LONGER. Give yourself extra time to make stops to nurse, change diapers, and stretch little legs. Preparing your travelling partners for this is important too. When the expectation is realistic, there is less stress. **Remember that puffy coats, "bundle bags" and other thick clothing should NOT be worn while your baby is in the carseat. If you have to loosen the straps to accommodate the coat, then it is too thick. Take off the coat, use thin layers (like fleece), use hats/mittens, and blankets OVER the straps. **If travelling by plane, using baby carriers can make traversing the airports easier. Nursing during take off and landing can help alleviate ear pain for little ones.
5. Invitations to holiday parties. Holiday invitations can present a challenge for some breastfeeding mothers as they decide how to balance their baby's needs and separation. Some mothers have found that a small (non-mobile) baby in a sling is welcome just about anywhere and just take the baby and enjoy themselves. Other mothers choose to pump and leave baby with a caregiver while they go to the party. Sometimes a mother can work out a compromise where she goes to the gathering for a short time before returning to her baby or is able to have a caregiver nearby so she can nurse the baby periodically. Other mothers may choose to forgo some events this year while their baby is small. There is no one "right" answer, and it depends on the baby's age and temperments and how the mother feels.
Sometimes talking the situation through with a Leader can help find solutions you may not realize yet. Give us a call! We are always happy to help.
6. Holiday treats and drinksSome mothers are concerned that they must follow a special "breastfeeding diet." In general, there are no foods that must be altogether avoided for all mothers. However there are some herbs that in large amounts can cause supply problems for some mothers. They include mint, sage, and parsley -- all of which are prevalent in holiday treats and feasts. Some mothers are also concerned with having a holiday cocktail while breastfeeding. Moderate alcohol consumption is considered compatible with breastfeeding, so nursing mothers can enjoy a glass of wine with dinner or a champagne toast witout worry.
For more on potentially problematic foods and nursing and alcohol cosumption: