The holidays are quickly approaching, which for many families means cold weather, travel, parties, and changes in general routines. All these things can be tough for babies—and what’s tough for babies, is tough for moms! Here are some common issues that arise over the holidays, and a few suggestions for handling them so you can better enjoy the magic of the season!
I’m worried about traveling with my baby.
For some families, holiday travel is inevitable. Stressful at the best of times, traveling with a baby brings a whole new set of challenges. What if my flight is delayed? How can I keep baby happy during long car rides? How do I travel with pumped breast milk?
Planning ahead is your best friend. If you are traveling by car, consider how you can break the trip up into manageable chunks, with frequent stops to nurse and let baby move around. Scheduling the trip so you’re driving during baby’s sleeping time can be a helpful way to keep baby content. Ideally, you can travel with another adult or sibling who can help entertain the baby.
Air travel brings its own set of challenges. If you can, look for direct flights or minimal connections. Arrive early at the airport so you have plenty of time to go through security and gate check a stroller. Using a carrier in the airport is often a great way to free up your hands and keep baby comfortable. If you are traveling with pumped milk, review the TSA guidelines for pumped milk.
My extended family offers unsolicited advice about breastfeeding.
Who hasn’t been there? Whether it’s a well-meaning aunt or family friend, everyone has an opinion about the best way to feed your baby. Why are you using formula? That baby is too old to still be nursing! Here, let me give her just a bite of my cookie!
It can be difficult to create boundaries around your baby while maintaining holiday peace. Many parents opt to simply nod and smile, ignoring the advice. Others find that offering a bit of research or evidence can go a long way in quieting opinions; simple statements such as “The World Health Organization recommends nursing until two years old” or “The American Association of Pediatricians recommends nursing until at least a year” are difficult to argue with!
Ultimately, it’s your baby and your right to make feeding decisions. If you are confident and consistent, with any luck your family will come around.
My baby wants to nurse ALL THE TIME!
Travel almost always involves disruptions to routines—sleeping at different times, in different beds, and being around lots of new people. All these factors can be stimulating and stressful for baby…and when babies are stressed, they want to eat! It might feel like baby is attached to your breast more than usual, which can be frustrating when you want to socialize and get things done. The more you can accommodate your baby’s needs, the happier everyone will be. Be gentle with yourself. If your baby falls asleep while nursing, keep cuddling your baby until they are deeply sleeping, then try putting them down. Letting baby sleep against your chest in a carrier is another great way to help baby soothe and rest while giving you a little freedom to move around.
My baby doesn’t want to nurse AT ALL!
Again, your baby is likely a bit out of sorts with the stimulation of travel and meeting new people. Sometimes, overstimulation makes babies distracted and they can seem less hungry. If your baby seems to be eating less, try sneaking away to a quiet spot to nurse. Often, babies need to be free of distractions to get the most out of a feeding. If your baby’s eating schedule has been interrupted, expect your baby to cluster feed or eat more the next night or day. The more you can stick to regular feedings, ideally in a calm, quiet environment, the better!
I’m nervous about breastfeeding in front of my family and friends!
If you aren’t used to breastfeeding in public or around crowds, holiday gatherings can feel daunting! Rest assured, you are probably worrying about it more than the people around you. Many moms opt to breastfeed just as they do at home, trusting that the people around them will adjust. Acting confident even if you don’t feel it—essentially, faking it til you make it—can sometimes have a surprisingly empowering effect.
You can always use a cover or nurse in another room—though if your baby doesn’t like a cover, that might not be an option. It’s possible to dress in a way that makes breastfeeding discreet and easy—try wearing a cami under a regular shirt—then when you pull the top shirt up and the bottom shirt down, pretty much everything is covered, even your stomach. There are also lots of options for special breastfeeding tops that make nursing in public more comfortable.
I don’t want sick people touching my baby! What do I say?
Who doesn’t want to hold and cuddle an adorable baby? There’s nothing more cringe-worthy than someone who’s just coughed into their fist reaching out to stroke your baby’s face! How can you tactfully request that people refrain from touching your baby?
First, babies are remarkably robust, and they can usually handle typical germs. However, if you’re not comfortable with people touching your baby, or if your baby is immune-compromised in some way, it’s absolutely okay to request people just look. A friendly, “Our baby’s pediatrician is concerned about germs. How about I hold the baby while you look?” can work wonders. Also, wearing baby against your body tends to prevent too many hands from reaching for him or her.
Introducing a new baby to family and friends over the holidays can be a joyful event. In general, the more relaxed and regulated you are, the more smoothly your baby will weather the holidays. Look for small ways you can carve out peaceful moments to breathe, smile, and remember what a wonderful job you are doing.