Being a mom during the holidays is difficult. Being a pumping or breast feeding mom during the holidays can present its own set of challenges. With a little planning and support this hectic season can feel like any other time.
The most important thing that I have learned during my 5 year nursing journey is to make time for yourself. We are often so focused on getting places, socializing with people we haven’t seen all year, or entertaining house guests that we forget about ourselves, our needs, and the needs of our babies. The first Thanksgiving I experienced as a mom, I forgot to make time to pump and ended up so engorged that I was in pain and miserable by the end of the night. Sure the perfect mashed potatoes are awesome but if you can’t enjoy them its not worth it! Make sure you make time for pump on your regular schedule or nurse as often as you do any other day. This is key to maintaining both supply and your own comfort level. I often find myself in the kitchen, cooking some dish, while pumping with my Rumina hands free tank.
Make sure you make time to feed yourself also! As mothers and women we often run around making sure everyone else is taken care of and end up shoving something in our mouth standing in the kitchen. We are allowed and entitled to enjoy the meal like every other person. Give yourself permission to sit, enjoy, and eat!
Another thing that I have learned during my time as a nursing and pumping mom is that everyone wants to hold the baby but the baby may not want to be passed around. Don’t ever anyone make you feel like you are somehow obligated to share your baby if it doesn’t feel right to you or the baby is expressing that they are unhappy. Being around family who they have never met in an often crowded situation is overwhelming for adults, let alone new babies. I will never let anyone make me feel bad for putting the needs of my baby over the desires of adults. Everyone obviously wants to snuggle the new addition but babies comfort comes first. Don’t be afraid to be your child’s advocate. If they are hungry, feed them. If they are overwhelmed, step away. If they just need mama or dada, don’t feel bad about meeting their need. One of the biggest perks to nursing during the holidays for me has always been the ability to say “the baby needs to eat” and taking a break somewhere in a quiet room.
This leads me to my next tip: Nurse where ever YOU feel comfortable. Some women want privacy, some are comfortable nursing in public, some need a cover. Whatever makes you feel the most comfortable is what you should do. Unless I’m sensing that baby needs some quiet time or I myself need a break, I refuse to miss a party because my child needs to eat and someone else doesn’t feel comfortable with me sitting on the couch nursing and interacting with other adults. I am always respectful and discreet but I do what makes me comfortable. I rely on others to manage their own comfort.
Some more practical things that are important to consider are:
- Remember your pump, parts, and storage for pumped milk. If you are traveling this is especially important. There is nothing more stressful than searching on Thanksgiving morning for a power cord for your pump that has suddenly disappeared. Make sure you have bottles and/or bags to store pumped milk.
- If you are staying in a hotel or a guest in someone’s home, consider how the milk will be stored. Make a plan ahead of time so you don’t have to worry about storing the milk you are working so hard to pump!
- If baby has any special dietary needs discuss this with the host before the big event. I have had 3 gluten and dairy allergic babies and have always offered to either bring a dish I know I can eat or supplied alternative ingredients that are safe. I have no problem asking to see labels or what was used to make a particular dish. It may be annoying to the host, but totally worth it to avoid a miserable baby down the road.
Holidays are often stressful. Family things can be complicated, there are often many places to go and not enough time, and most of us feel some pressure to appear like we have it more together than we actually do. I try to remember that most everyone I’m going to interact with is probably in the same boat I am, just getting by day by day and pretending its easy. I view pumping and/or nursing for my baby as another part of the holiday season that I need to be aware of and accommodate. Its not a hassle or a challenge that can’t be overcome. With a bit of planning both baby and mama can enjoy the season and end each party well fed and happy! Enjoy your loved ones, enjoy your friends, and focus on making memories. Happy Holidays!