It’s your baby’s first Christmas. It’s exciting but also a bit overwhelming too as you try to plan the big day with family and friends.
Hopefully, if you have a newborn, you haven’t put your hand up to host the day, but this means you will be a guest at somebody else’s house and this can present other sorts of stress:
Breastfeeding in public: Family aren’t quite ‘public’ but you could still feel uncomfortable with so many eyes on you as you try and attach a distracted baby or a newborn who is still learning to breastfeed (while you drip milk everywhere).
Speak to your host about a quiet space where you can feed – even if you are perfectly comfortable breastfeeding among family members, it’s a good opportunity to have a rest, especially if you have a newborn. Even though you may be feeling fine, it can be easy to overdo things and crash later. Feeling exhausted in the evening may slow down your milk flow and then you will not only be tired yourself but you could have an unsettled baby to contend with as well.
Passing the baby around: Everyone will love your baby but your baby may not be so happy to be passed around a lot of new people. Most older babies will let you know whether they want to stay close to you – of course this will get you a few comments about your little one being clingy, so be prepared with some ready comments (smile and say, “yes, she’s our spoilt one”) or change the subject.
If you have a newborn who probably won’t complain as long as he is being held, it can be easy to miss early hunger signals. So let grandma have cuddles but stay close and keep an eye on your baby so you can feed when he gives those subtle signs (hand to mouth, rooting, little noises). Otherwise, a really desperate or crying baby can find it difficult to latch and sucking will be disorganized so he will probably only have a short feed then become fussy because he isn’t full.
Also, if your breasts become overfull because feeds have been spaced out longer than usual, you can set yourself up for blocked ducts and mastitis.
The best way to keep your baby from too much passing around, whatever his age, is to ‘wear’ him. Carry your baby in a wrap or carrier so he is close to you but if he likes, he can interact. He can also tuck his face in and snuggle when he has had enough of socializing. By keeping your baby close, you will be aware of all his little signals that he is tired, hungry or overwhelmed and needing some quiet time away from the crowd.
Enlist a buddy: It depends whether you are at your family’s event or spending the day with your partner’s family how comfortable or assertive you feel about seeing your own needs are taken care of. Discuss with your partner what support you need – will you need a quiet space to feed or express. If you are expressing, try setting your pump up in a bedroom that you can slip into as you need to. Will your partner see that you have a glass of water and food while you are feeding or is it easier to carry a water bottle and snacks with you? If dinner is served while you are feeding your baby, your partner will need to bring you food.
It can help to enlist a support person or buddy other than your partner such as your sister or sister-in-law who will be able to offer practical help and also keep an eye on anyone who is likely to make undermining comments about how you are caring for your baby. You don’t need your day spoilt by hearing a load of rubbish about ‘spoiling’ your baby or what routines worked for your mother-in-law’s neighbour’s baby (who is now in his thirties). And you certainly don’t want anyone offering your baby tastes of food that he isn’t ready for.
Pass on the booze – if you are breastfeeding, alcohol will enter your milk. If you plan to have a drink,especially if you have a newborn who will be more vulnerable to the effects of alcohol, it’ s best to express some milk earlier so you can give your baby alcohol free milk until your milk is clear again. It takes around two hours per standard drink for alcohol to pass out of your body (and your milk). There is no advantage to pumping and dumping after you have had a drink – as long as there is alcohol in your blood it will be in your milk and, as levels decrease in your body,they reduce in your breastmilk too. A good rule is ‘if you are safe to drive, you will be safe to breastfeed’. However, if you feel full and uncomfortable, you will need to express (and dump this milk) for comfort. You can download the Feed Safe App to help you work out timing more accurately.
Please remember too, that if you haven’t had a drink since before you were pregnant, you will be affected by a small amount of alcohol. Also, consider that alcohol impairs your awareness of your baby, so organize a ‘designated carer’ (perhaps grandma if she stays sober) if you plan to have a drink, and don’t sleep with your baby while you or your partner are ‘under the influence’ (even a single glass).
Enjoy yourself: Take it easy and don’t feel obligated to step up and help with the dishes or running after other people. You have a big enough job taking care of yourself so you can take care of your baby. Banish stress and guilt about what you ‘should’ be doing, take in every compliment about your baby and have fun!
Pinky McKay is an Internationally Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC) and best-selling baby-care author. She is the creator of Boobie Bikkies, all natural and organic cookies to boost your energy and support a healthy breast milk supply. Download Pinky’s Free Ebook ‘Making More Mummy Milk, Naturally’ at www.boobiebikkies.com.au