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December 12, 2022
Your baby’s first Christmas! The most exciting, magical time! All the wonderful ‘firsts’…. The lights, the outfits, the presents. But Christmas can also present some real challenges when it comes to breastfeeding. Challenges that can be really difficult to foresee when you’re giddy with excitement about it all.
But Christmas and breastfeeding can mix! Do not fear – I’m not about to ruin all your Christmas fun! In fact – I’m going to do the opposite. I’m going to tell you how breastfeeding and Christmas can work alongside one another easily and comfortably!
Off to see Aunt Maggie for Christmas? Just got to get through the 5 hour drive? It can be tempting to cross your fingers and hope that your baby sleeps and sleeps on the journey - because there is nothing more stressful than a car journey with a screaming baby! But long car journeys are likely to alter your baby’s normal feeding patterns. This means you may go longer between feeds – meaning your baby takes less milk and your body produces less milk.
To ensure that long car journeys to see loved ones don’t disrupt your breastfeeding, plan in advance. Set off after a feed so your baby is happy and likely to sleep in the car, but then schedule in some stops to wake your baby (if they haven't already woken..!) and have them feed as they usually would. Yes it will take longer, but it means you are less likely to see a drop in your milk supply – and hopefully avoid any complications like blocked ducts or mastitis!
One of the most special things about Christmas is having your loved ones around to meet and spend time with your new baby! Those first-Christmas cuddles are just gorgeous. But it's also a time that can disrupt the natural communication that you have with your baby. If your baby is being cuddled by your mum / sister etc for hours on end that your baby may be a bit slower to ask for that feed when they want it – and you may be less aware of those early hunger cues that they’re giving out.
So if your mum is living her best life on the sofa with your baby, keep an eye out for signs of those sleepy requests for milk, and resist the temptation to let someone else soothe your baby with a dummy or a finger to ‘give you a break’. Reducing your breastfeeding suddenly can lead to engorgement, blocked ducts and mastitis - your baby and your boobs will thank you for maintaining as much normality as possible!
You were just getting into the swing of things with breastfeeding…and now you’ve got to think about where and when you feed with all these distant relatives around! Judgey comments? Brothers who feel awkward? Uncles who make YOU feel awkward?
Give it a little thought in advance and chat with your partner or close family about how you plan to breastfeed in a way that you feel relaxed and comfortable. Do you need to think about a breastfeeding-friendly outfit that you know will keep you feeling covered and discrete? Do you need a reserved sofa in another room that you can retreat to whenever your baby needs to feed? How much time do you want to spend with people that you don’t feel comfortable breastfeeding around?
As time goes on you will feel less bothered about who is around you when you are breastfeeding your baby, but its perfectly natural to feel self-conscious in the early weeks.
You’ve just gone through 9 dry months…. And now you’d really love a glass or two of fizz on Christmas day? Well, go ahead! Breastfeeding does not mean you can’t drink alcohol!
We know that what you consume does pass through to your breast-milk, but we are talking about incredibly tiny amounts. It can be helpful to think of the legal drink-driving limit as a comparison. The legal drink-driving limit is about 0.05% in many places and so this correlates as 0.05% alcohol in your blood. As your breast-milk is made from your blood, your breast-milk will have a similar level of alcohol to your blood – so 0.05% if you are at the legal drink-diving limit for example.
Your first question should be “am I safe to hold and care for my baby?” If you are not, then the issue is not breastfeeding, it is one of safety for your baby (the same issue faced by a formula-feeding parent).
If you are having a few drinks, but will be staying at a level that is safe to care for your baby, you may want to consider your timing. Drinking at the same time as you breastfeed, and then waiting a few hours before your next feed, will minimise the amount of alcohol in your breastmilk as it allows time for the alcohol to leave your body. Given the very tiny amounts of alcohol passing through to your baby, this will be a matter of personal choice and may be impacted by the age of your baby.
“Pumping & dumping” is usually unnecessary as alcohol does not stay in your breasts – the alcohol will naturally leave your blood (and so your breastmilk) as you metabolise it a few hours after drinking. There’s no need to remove it and throw it away! Only if you are feeling uncomfortably full (or skipping a feed altogether) might you choose to pump.
Breastfeeding your baby comes with so many wonderful benefits for both you and your baby. Navigating Christmas time can be a little different to the usual day to day, but with a little bit of a thought and planning, you can have a wonderful time whilst continuing to enjoy breastfeeding your baby.
If you'd like to learn about breastfeeding before you have your baby, my breastfeeding & postnatal course will set you up to get breastfeeding off to a great start. If you would like support postnatally, get in touch about my postnatal doula services or a breastfeeding consultation. I’d love to help you towards a breastfeeding journey that works for you!
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