Ahhhhh the holiday season. Lights, tasty food, presents, family and….mastitis? Oh no, no no no, that is NOT what I wanted!

And when accompanied by its friend unintentional weaning, it’s just a double whammy.

So why do these phenomenons happen and what can we do to avoid them?

Let’s start with the basics of infant feeding.

  1. Babies feed often. This is for a few reasons: their stomachs are small, breastmilk digests quickly and when they give more stimulation to the breasts, the body is signaled to make more milk.
  2. Removing milk more often makes more milk. Whether by a baby or a pump, frequent, effective milk removal tells the body to make more.
  3. Babies feed for more reasons than just hunger. Comfort, closeness, tiredness, scared, overstimulated… just some of the reasons and the list can go on and on.

When the holidays come around, we’re frequently out of our routine. Parties, kids’ events, family events, and preparing for said events can throw us out of our routine. Just as we, as adults, fall out of our routine, so can our babies. When a baby falls out of their routine and have the added stress of overstimulation, they can tend to eat less frequently. Even when they may otherwise be hungry, if they are overstimulated, they become fatigued and may miss a feeding session.

Or another scenario: baby may eat fairly regularly, but the feedings have been pushed back by 30 minutes or an hour. Baby may get the feeding, but consistent stretching of feedings over time decreases milk supply.

So, how do we avoid unintentional weaning or mastitis over the busy holiday season?

  1. Watch baby closely for cues. This may look like keeping baby close in a carrier or asking another designated family member or friend to help you watch baby for cues if you’re not going to be as near to baby.
  2. Speaking of carriers…wear baby so you can watch more closely for cues. Bonus: you can feed right in the carrier if you want!
  3. If you have to feed a bottle instead of feeding at breast, make sure you remove the milk ASAP, rather than waiting! Mastitis means “milk stasis”, which means milk gets stuck in the breasts, causes clogs, then can cause mastitis.

If your baby seems like they are wanting to wean over the holidays, these are some tips to get them back to breast:

  1. Take a bath together with no pressure to feed. The warmth of the bath and closeness with the parent help babies to relax and sometimes, they’ll latch!
  2. Remove additional stimulation. This could be noise, lights or lots of people around. A dark room with a noise machine can help a baby nurse easier with less distractions.
  3. Take a nursing vacation, where you offer baby unrestricted access to the breast for a couple days. This could be where you stay in bed with baby or even on the couch with little distraction. The point is really, removing distraction and offering more access to breastfeed as baby would want.

The holidays can be busy and make schedules sometimes difficult to manage. Allow yourself grace and follow your baby’s cues. They’re smarter than you think and could give you reason to slow down this holiday season!

Find yourself with a lactation issue during the holidays and need help? Schedule an in-person or virtual consult! My calendar is open to you! And bonus, it may even be covered by insurance!

Happy holidays to you and your family!