Breastfeeding can be difficult enough for many moms, but some aspects of the holiday season can make things even more so if she isn’t prepared for them – such as her body’s ability to produce breastmilk. Here are several things to keep a keen eye out for (while you’re watching for Kris Kringle of course), that can impact a mom’s milk supply:
Yes, you read that right. Peppermint is one of several herbs known to negatively impact milk supply. Others are sage, parsley, oregano, jasmine, and yarrow. Peppermint is all around us at this time of year, so be careful of those sweet treats that may contain lots of it.
If you or a partner smoke, be aware that first- and second-hand smoke does lower milk production for breastfeeding moms. It is still recommended that one breastfeeds, of course! Or if you don’t smoke but you are planning to spend some time with family this holiday season who do, try to limit exposure to smoke as much as you can, e.g., have family members step outside to smoke or move to another room. Also, it is recommended smokers change clothes (or cover their clothes with a removable jacket while smoking) and wash hands before touching your baby, to reduce nicotine exposure.
Excess amounts of alcohol can impact milk supply, as well as the health of your baby – read about it in my recent post.
Moms may worry that once they start sniffling, that is the end of breastfeeding until she is feeling better – and then she loses a good healthy milk supply. Actually, it’s quite the opposite. Even if you get a cold or the flu, you can still breastfeed! Mom’s body is manufacturing antibodies en force, including in her breastmilk. Baby greatly benefits from those antibodies and may even avoid getting the illness altogether or a much less intense version of it. The only time breastfeeding would be contraindicated if mom is sick is when she is taking certain medications, or has chicken pox, brucellosis, or has a herpes outbreak. To learn more about breastfeeding contraindications, click HERE. Even if you do end up with an illness that breastfeeding is not recommended, be sure to pump in order to protect your milk supply until the doctor gives the green light that it’s safe to resume bringing baby back to the breast.
It has to be said: While they are the most wonderful time of the year, holidays can also be very stressful.
Whether you are hosting or traveling, buying presents or making them from scratch, tending to your newborn or wrangling several children while breastfeeding, there’s a lot going on in your life.
It is well-known that if mom feels stress, her milk can decrease, and pretty quickly. And when mom is feeling the bite of the holiday spirit then baby also feels it, which can make feeding time even more difficult. Take time for you and be sure you are meeting your needs, so that you and baby can continue bonding without (much) interruption. Budgeting in skin-to-skin time with baby will do wonders for both of you!
Be kind to yourself. This includes getting adequate sleep, physical activity and proper nutrition to help the body recover faster from stressful days or situations. And I know you’re trying to be super mom, but a part of your mission, should you choose to accept it this year – is delegate! And prioritize what needs to be done over what can honestly wait for another day.
Routines (or lack thereof)
Especially with holiday travel or family coming in for visits, routines can be broken or disrupted for long stretches of time. This can be stressful for older babies especially, who rely on the comfort of routines. It can also disrupt breastfeeding or pumping schedules, and missed feedings can quickly impact mom’s milk supply.
Be mindful of your pumping schedule and find ways to make it a priority over other things going on throughout the day or during travel. Some airports even have lactation pods to allow moms a comfortable place to pump privately between planes. If those are not available, hand expression can become a great skill when in difficult or awkward situations that you can’t pump or are away from baby! Or if you are feeding baby in strange places, try to find a quiet place away from the hubbub, so baby does not get over stimulated. Even facing a corner can help reduce distractions so feeding can go smoothly and more quickly.
And while the baby may be the star of the show at some of your family get-togethers this holiday, setting up the expectation that you may have to excuse yourself for 10-15 minutes to pump or feed the baby in another room may make that transition less awkward.
For the older toddlers, be sure to take time for you and stick to routines as much as you can to help reduce stress, such as a typical bedtime routine when in a strange place. Breastfeeding, familiar toys or books can also be a comfort. The more a family makes an effort to maintain comfortable routines, science says can it can have a positive impact on the immune systems of parents and child alike.
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