Breastfeeding is short and sweet in the grand scheme of our baby’s life, therefore not every breastfeeding mum has the experience feeding throughout the Christmas festivities. There is a lot of expectation around motherhood and sometimes not a lot of conversation around the realities. Christmas with a baby can be a daunting time and through the unpredictability of a new born, there is one certainty. As the Christmas tree and the tidal wave of decorations descend on our households, irregular cluster feeds and night waking do not disappear. The Christmas holidays mean nothing for a baby who is fed on demand, and we shouldn’t expect our babies to feed any differently to their usual feeding behaviours.
Our babies are not worried how many family members are present and they certainly are not worried our second cousins’ partner, who we haven’t met is on the family facetime call.
Christmas, can be enough to make the ever-increasing pressures of being a new mum, feel even more stressful. As a feeding consultant, it is no surprise the question I am asked the most is ‘How do I make my baby sleep for longer?’ and with the added exhaustion of Christmas, this question can soon turn to desperation. Long car journeys, more cuddles from family members and being busy can sometimes mean we miss our all-important feeding cues. It doesn’t take long before the seeds of doubt over breastfeeding start to snowball.
There are some ways to look after yourself and your feeding routine through the festive season
• If you feel anxieties around visits during the holidays, make sure you discuss them with your partner. What are you worries regarding feeding leading up to the visit? Is there a way your partner can alleviate some of that stress? If not your partner, are you able to discuss your concerns with someone else who will be there and can support? Do not be afraid to communicate what is going to help you enjoy this time.
• Although there is no expectation to cover up during breastfeeding, it is also very acceptable to want some privacy. Check ahead of visits for safe spaces you will feel confident to snuggle in a feed, without the pressure to move quickly. Plan your clothing, so you do not need to get undressed to feed. Nursing clothes do not need to be expensive, low-cost stretchy vest tops under everyday clothes are just as effective.
• If you have other younger children, it can feel daunting trying to entertain a toddler and feed. A great idea is creating a fun box to take with you, that is assuming they will not be caught up in wrapping paper and family gifts. Keep your busy box close by, so your hands can be used to support your nursing.
• Remember no baby is a ‘bad baby’, our little ones are supposed to wake frequently throughout the night for little and often feeds. These are very normal infant feeding behaviours and signs your baby is healthy and thriving. Although family members are usually trying to be helpful with advice around night waking and when best to introduce solids. Do not be afraid to divert the conversation away from your feeding routine and what better way to do distract a group of adults- wine and turkey.
• Do not refuse offers at help at Christmas, there’s a lot to be said for arriving, eating up, snuggling up, washing up – and then leaving. Remember mum might be in charge of the meat and potatoes, sister might be in charge of the veg, but you are in charge of the breastfeeding. You have the most important job this Christmas and if that doesn’t deserve putting your feed up after dinner, then I don’t know what does.
My advice comes from lived experience, with a baby born 3 days before Christmas. I spent the entire day feeding in bed whilst the chaos descended downstairs, and I still remember it as one of the nicest Christmases I have had. The key is to remember the hustle and bustle of is short lived. Keep expectation low and be as kind to yourself as possible.
Merry Christmas MAMAS