The holiday season is upon us! For most of us, major holidays and other big life events can mean more and less. More errands, visitors, visiting, travel, sugar. Less nutrition, cuddle time with baby, exercise and, most importantly, less sleep. You already know your body doesn’t work as well during times of stress—you are more prone to illness and you just don’t feel right. It’s no different with breastfeeding. Your breasts are part of your body and they don’t function as well during times of stress.
Stress can impact milk production because it impacts the milk ejection reflex (MER) or let down. Your brain doesn’t know the difference between a charging elephant (stress) or the stress of holiday errands in heavy traffic. What happens if you try to nurse your baby or pump in a frantic state? Possibly very little. Over time, this lack of effective MER could inhibit release of milk, leading to plugged ducts or insufficient milk production.
So what can you do?
First of all acknowledge that you have a young baby and that he will only be little for a very short time. Schedule time each day that is designated nap/cuddle time for you and baby. The younger the baby, the more times you will schedule. Make sure any guests know that you will NOT be doing all the meal preparation. If family members want traditional foods that are labor intensive, they are welcome to make them and bring them to you. Try not to have a houseful of guests; but if you do, retire to a quiet room EVERY time you pump or breastfeed. Not because of shyness or modesty, but because you want your wonderful oxytocin to flow like a river.
Here are some suggestions from moms who have been there:
Stay hydrated—a glass of water with every breastfeeding.
If you must shop, shop online
Make a photo book online featuring your baby. Then you can have the same book shipped to all your family members. Don’t forget a copy for YOU.
Forget about cleaning and decorating the house. Let it go.
If you must cook, do so ahead of time so you won’t feel stressed when company arrives.
Put you and your baby first this holiday season. Eat well. Take naps. Your family and friends will support you if you let them know what you need. They will be rewarded with a glowing, rested, happy mom and baby.
Renee Beebe, M.Ed., RLC, IBCLC