Monday, October 29, 2012

Day 29: Maintaining your milk supply during the holidays



(This post contains affiliate links.) 

The holidays can be one of most stressful and busy times of the year, and for a supply-sensitive mother, can have a detrimental effect on all the hard work you've done.

It was best for me to go into the season knowing that with all the activity, I would have to be extra diligent and watchful over my stress levels, water intake, and fatigue factors. Of course, I wanted to meet baby's needs but I also wanted to have an enjoyable time with family and friends! The balance can be hard to find, sometimes.

Here are my top five super simple tips for maintaining your supply during the holidays.

1. Keep hydrated

For me, the holidays are definitely a time when I drink more alcohol. Parties, dinners, gatherings; I don't usually pass up a good cocktail or glass of wine. When you're breastfeeding though, it can lead to faster dehydration and to lower supply. Keep your water bottle filled and make sure you're meeting or exceeding your water needs. (Also of note regarding alcohol and breasfeeding: if you have a newborn, forgoing alcohol is something to consider. No need to pump and dump, though. Read more at KellyMom).

2. Keep healthy snacks handy

If the holidays find you driving to and fro, here and there, keep some healthy protein bars in your glove box, or pack some pyrex with cut up fruits and veggies and nuts. Make pb&j (or I prefer sunbutter and jelly) sandwiches with a layer of butter or coconut oil, and wrap them up and keep them in the fridge so you can grab one when you're hungry. Also helpful would be drinking lactation-supportive teas, either hot or iced, like this Oat Mama Lactation Tea! My favorite glove box snacks: MacroBars, these grass-fed beef sticks, or these blueberry hemp power snacks. 

3. Take a nap + set boundaries

This tip will vary wildly for each individual. So, for some people, they need strong relational boundaries in place to feel calm and sane. For others, their boundaries are more fuzzy, and every aunt is crowding into your room to ooo and ahhh over the baby trying to nurse at your breast. Both are good, it just depends on the person. Tap into that feminine, maternal wisdom and see what will fill you up rather than drain you, and get your partner on board to support you.

Personally, I felt overstimulated a lot of the time with nursing twins and I retreated a lot to nap while they napped, or even just to read quietly while they slept. I loved to be around the activity and festivities, but having the quiet time to catch up on sleep - the girls were not even close to sleeping through the night - or read felt very important to my emotional health. Slip that Kindle into your diaper bag or download the Calm App to your phone for a short but soothing meditation.

4. Find a quiet space to nurse

Do you host people at your house for the holidays? Do you visit others? Sometimes this can be really hard on the nursing relationship. If baby is distractible and likes to see everything that's going on, good luck getting him or her to eat while there's a party going on! Check with your host to see if there's a quiet bedroom you can retreat to when it's time to nurse. It will give baby and you a chance to relax, breathe, and focus on each other. It was amazing the difference in speed of letdown when I was distracted and uncomfortable versus when I was at ease and the room was quiet.

5. Stash an extra milk supply

This tip only applies if you use a breast pump and if your baby will take a bottle of expressed milk. If you do and they will, the holidays can mean an extra holiday party or outing with your partner or friends and maybe baby stays home for a few hours with a loving caregiver. Yay for self-care! To give yourself a little extra wiggle room, pump a few extra ounces of milk after each nursing session so that you have this luxury, if you want. It always felt nice to know that if we suddenly had an opportunity to get out of the house for a few hours for dinner, or even a movie, I had some milk in the freezer to get through at least one feeding. You can also keep a manual breast pump in your car in case of delays or emergencies and you're feeling super full.

6. Bonus: Don't make food "good" or "bad"

I see this weird quirk in our culture that we are allowed to "indulge" during the holidays but it seems like there is always an underlying current of guilt that accompanies our festivities that subconsciously implies that it is "bad." Talk about stressful. Maybe it's just me? Well, either way, I don't buy that anymore! Dollop that whipped topping on top of that pumpkin pie! Celebrate. Rejoice. Get Festive. Eat good food, and enjoy every moment of it. Practice listening to your body and you'll get a feel for what it likes/needs and doesn't like/need. Not only are you providing life-giving food for your baby, but you're also nourishing yourself.

I want to hear from you! What are your favorite tips for maintaining supply around the holidays? 



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