I have recently seen some posts on social media about 'holiday weaning' for a breastfed baby. I had not heard of this but basically it's a term used to describe a baby that accidentally weans during the holidays because the mom has been nursing less; therefore, decreasing her supply and she did not even realize it. This is due to all the extra stress, busy times, and commotion around the holidays.
I found this subject very interesting as a breastfeeding mom. I have nursed through many holidays including Christmas a few times. My daughter was nine months and breastfeeding during her first Christmas and my son was only two weeks old last Christmas. We were just establishing breastfeeding at the time.
Now he is just over a year old and we are still breastfeeding. I definitely have been much busier than normal the last few weeks. Between Thanksgiving, planning his first birthday party, in laws visiting, shopping and planning to host Christmas dinner at my house; I can see how it's easy to nurse less than normal. I am not ready to wean him even though he is a year, so I am happy to be aware of how my activities could push him towards weaning. Now that I am aware I can make sure I don't do it!
Holiday weaning can really occur anytime that we are busier than normal. A vacation, any holiday throughout the year, or any change in routine can all cause a decrease in breastfeeding.
Some of the common tips to avoid holiday weaning:
Wear your baby during events. This keeps your baby close so you notice their hunger queues. This is one of my favorite ideas for preventing holiday weaning. Babies get overwhelmed during events and being close to you will keep your baby calm and well fed. I wore my son and held onto him a ton during my daughter's 2nd birthday earlier in the year. I also wore him anytime we were in a social gathering with many people this past year.
Ask for help if you are hosting events. Having help gives you more time to focus on your baby.
Take breaks to check on your baby and feed him frequently.
Try to make sure your baby is getting enough rest and not overtired or overstimulated.
Hang on to your baby and do not give in to pressure to let relatives pass your baby around or hold him for long periods. If anyone offers to feed the baby for you just explain that you are breastfeeding. No other reason needs to be given.
If you have a newborn baby during the holidays and you are just establishing breastfeeding some of the same tips to avoid holiday weaning can also apply.
My son was only two weeks old at Christmas last year and I decided to host a Christmas dinner. If he was my first baby there is no way I would have hosted at my house. When my daughter (first baby) was born I was still very sleep deprived, hormonal and establishing breastfeeding at two weeks postpartum. But, I decided that since he was the second baby and I was a little more experienced that I could hopefully pull it off with a lot of help.
Besides, I did not want to take my newborn baby and my toddler out to another location so it only made sense to have Christmas at our home. It was important to me to keep the group very small with only immediate family and friends.
Since it was winter, I asked that anyone coming around my baby have their whooping cough vaccination and flu shot. Even though I was hosting a dinner, I basically treated it the same way I would if this was family just coming over to see the new baby.
It's important not to push yourself though. As any new mom knows the first six weeks postpartum is a major time of transition. You are still getting use to your new baby and routine, not getting much sleep, dealing with any sibling adjustments, establishing breastfeeding and dealing with any breastfeeding problems. You also may still be in physical pain and limited in your activity depending on whether you are healing from a c-section or tear.
Tip number one is do not push yourself to do more than you are comfortable with. You are still healing and if you are not up to attending an event or having an event don't do it!
It's important not to let others push you into doing more than you can during this time. Do not feel obligated to do anything that makes you uncomfortable.
Keep your baby with you during holiday events and gatherings and find a comfy space to sit and relax if possible. Hold onto your baby and maintain lots of contact.
Find a good place you can go if you need to be alone with your baby to breastfeed. Whenever I was attending an event with a young baby I would scope out private spaces and figure out where I could escape quickly if needed.
If you are hosting get help! My mother was a huge help to me hosting a meal with such a young baby.
Don't forget to take many breaks and breastfeed your baby.
Wear your baby! This is a big one. I cannot advocate enough how much easier social events can be with a newborn if you are wearing them. Whether a wrap or sling or something else it is so helpful. As I said above, your newborn will be much happier being worn and you won't ever miss a hunger queue.
Whether it's concern about holiday weaning or just getting through the holidays with a new baby in tow; the tips are pretty similar. The biggest advice I can offer is to wear your baby, watch their hunger queues and take lots of little breaks to nurse and tend to your baby. With a little planning you can still have fun and enjoy the holidays without stress even while caring for a young baby.
As always, let me know if you have any question or comments.