It’s the time of year that we all need to step back and prioritize while trying to enjoy the holiday season. When I meet with new mothers I remind them to practice self-care and avoid the stress that comes with trying to keep up with the seasonal pace when they are their baby’s primary source or nurturing and nourishment.
Breastfeeding mothers may find themselves missing feedings when taking road or air trips and other departures that interrupt frequent nursing. This can lead to what is dubbed “holiday mastitis.” Not fun. When you get run-down or have a compromised immune system from colds or flu you are at risk for not only mastitis, but also fluctuation in milk production. While staying a step ahead of these issues seems to be common sense, in the moment we moms tend to push through and ignore our body’s signals to keep it simple.
Here are some considerations for nursing mothers as we countdown to the holiday season:
- Avoid an overload of starches and sweets in your diet (I know, easier said than done!). Since Thanksgiving I have seen several cases of yeast infections of the breast, often associated with an abundance of sweets. Indulge in seasonal goodies, as you are burning extra calories by breastfeeding, but steer away from a steady diet of sugar and carbs.
- Go easy on the alcohol. A celebratory drink may be fine, but your baby does not need the abundance of second hand alcohol and a hung-over mother will not be a happy one! Moderation is the key here.
- Plan travel time carefully. Duh. Be prepared to be flexible with delays by nursing often and giving yourself plenty of time to get where you are going. Stay hydrated and carry snacks. Nursing babies are generally good travelers but remain prepared.
- Ask or seek help. Enlist a neighborhood sitter or family member to keep baby entertained whiled you shop, bake or wrap gifts. Or wear your baby in a sling or carrier as you go about holiday errands. Take frequent nursing breaks.
- Hand hygiene! Your baby has the immunological benefits of your milk, but don’t push your luck. Use hand sanitizer often and keep others from touching or getting close to the baby.
- If you pump milk, keep your pump with you or hand express when separated from baby.
- Avoid holiday supply busters. Peppermint, spearmint, sage, thyme and chronic decongestant use are associated with decreased milk production. Stress and sleep deprivation can be culprits too.
Nobody wants to look back on this joyous season as a stressful blur. After all, your baby and family come first and if you are out of commission, the holidays will not be the time to enjoy your new addition and the memories you will have for a lifetime…
Happy Holidays from all of us at Hygeia!