by Sharon Perrella – Lactation Consultant and Michelle Way – Child Health Nurse
The festive season presents a whole new set of challenges for many families – juggling ALL of the social and family events, breastfeeding a distractible baby in front of 2000 relatives, dealing with unhelpful advice, shopping for Christmas gifts (when it’s already a struggle to get the basic grocery shopping done), how to stop Grandma from trying to feed the baby ice-cream, and more.
It’s worth investing in some forward planning with your partner to help things go more smoothly.
Here are some tips from our lactation consultant Sharon Perrella and Child Health Nurse Michelle Way:
- You may still be getting used to breastfeeding or might feel uncomfortable breastfeeding baby in front of other people. If so, consider calling the host before the event to explain that your baby feeds more easily in a quiet room and ask if you could please have access to a bedroom to feed your baby.
- It’s worth practising breastfeeding in the passenger seat of your car – it’s surprisingly comfortable and discreet (tinted windows!) so is a great backup for picnics and noisy public venues.
- If you are having breastfeeding difficulties with a very young baby and the thought of breastfeeding away from home is stressful, it’s perfectly fine to pump some milk ahead of time and feed that to your baby. Aim to time the outing so that you breastfeed or pump just before you leave home, and plan to be back within 3-4 hours to feed or pump again (or take your pump) so your breasts don’t get overfull.
- It can feel like everyone has an opinion on breastfeeding, and comments such as “Are you still breastfeeding” or “When are you going to stop?” can be frustrating, especially when you have worked so hard for breastfeeding to work in those early weeks. You and your partner may like to be prepared with some informative or humorous responses, check out:
- Sometimes social events just go on too long, or feel overwhelming so plan ahead for a smooth escape as needed. If you already know that you manage best with shorter visits to parties or meals, talk with your partner and decide on the time that you will all leave the event. If your host is understanding, it can work to let them know ahead of the event that you plan to leave at that time, so they expect it and support you in your decision.
- If you really don’t feel comfortable having your baby passed around amongst family members, a baby sling or carrier may be your new best friend! Many young babies will happily sleep when snuggled close to mum’s chest – and it limits the amount of handling by others. You can explain that baby is just settling off to sleep.
- When it comes to buying gifts, as parents of babies and young children, give yourselves permission to take the easy route – allow online shopping to be your friend! There are so many café/movie/shopping vouchers that can be downloaded and printed. Tweens and teenagers absolutely appreciate cash or prepaid cards.
- Don’t be camera shy! Too often mums are stuck behind the camera instead of having photos taken with their little loves. Your babies don’t care if your body doesn’t look as it did before you became a mother, but these early memories of “mummy and me” captured in photos will mean the world to them (and you) in years to come.
- Communicate with your partner around expectations of the day, check in with one another regularly on the day and share the tasks involved with looking after baby too
- Don’t plan to do too much – it’s ok to say no to invitations or say that you’re having a quieter Christmas this year. Or do as much as you like! Newborns in particular are very portable and will sleep anywhere. In the end, do what suits you and your baby. If you know your baby needs to sleep at a particular time, don’t be afraid to excuse yourself – your baby’s needs come first
- Delegate tasks/food if you are hosting, ask people to bring something or help out in some way with preparation around the house (e.g. cleaning).
- Nourish yourself – remember to eat and stay well hydrated, stay out of the heat and use air-conditioning and/or fans. Take quiet/down time when you need it if you are anticipating a long day with relatives
- If you decide to have the odd drink, download the Feed Safe App to your smart phone. It contains answers to the most common questions about alcohol and breastfeeding, with information from Australia’s most trusted experts. Feed Safe App includes a timer so that if you decide to have an occasional drink, the app uses your height, weight and alcohol intake to accurately estimate when your breastmilk should be free of alcohol, and alert you when this time has been reached.
- A portacot (with a newborn/ infant insert) or a pram with a bassinette attachment where your baby can lie flat is a great thing to have for safe sleeping on the go.
- A little bit of organisation goes a long way- if you are heading out on Christmas Day, bagging up presents, and packing nappy bags the night before saves you rushing around on the day. Make a list of things (like a high chair for an older baby) you will need or start a pile of things near the front door that can be easily transferred to the car without much thought.