Holiday Survival Guide for Breastfeeding Moms
Holiday Survival Guide for Breastfeeding Moms
by katie black
The holiday season is officially underway. Depending on what or how you celebrate, this time of year can be more stressful than festive. Add breastfeeding to all that and the season can become downright overwhelming.
While there is only so much we can offer when it comes to overbearing relatives, long flights, and hectic schedules, here are some ideas to help make your life easy as you breastfeed during the holidays.
According to the TSA, the Tuesday and Wednesday before Thanksgiving and the Sunday after are the busiest travel days of the year.
Similarly, the week before Christmas (especially Christmas Eve) is also really busy. It might not be realistic to fly at different times than these but there are some things you can do to make the process smoother like using TSA PreCheck (this little perk gets you in that special line at security so you can get to your gate faster). Apply here.
Using carry-ons instead of checked bags can save you time and headaches if luggage arrives late, or worse, gets lost. You also won’t have to stand in line to check your luggage before your flight. You’ll be able to bring a diaper bag in addition to your carry-on.
Most airlines allow breastfeeding/pumping onboard, and if you’d like more privacy let a flight attendant know and they’ll accommodate your needs. If you want to bring pumped milk in a cooler instead, that’s totally fine.
According to the TSA’s website,
“Formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and baby/toddler food (to include puree pouches) in quantities greater than 3.4 ounces or 100 milliliters are allowed in carry-on baggage and do not need to fit within a quart-sized bag.”
This also applies to breast milk and formula cooling items like ice packs, freezer packs, and gel packs (even if you don’t have breast milk on you). Your child doesn’t need to be with you to bring breast milk, formula and any related supplies on your flight.
Tell the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process if you’re carrying more than 3.4 ounces of formula, breast milk, toddler drinks, and/or baby/toddler food. Take these things out of your carry-on bag so they can be screened separately. TSA officers may need to test the liquids for explosives or concealed prohibited items.
They recommend using clear bags but it’s not required.
This may be the first time some family is seeing your baby. That doesn’t give them a pass when it comes to your wishes as a parent. If you don’t want your niece who’s been sneezing to hold the baby, or your mother-in-law who’s been dying to bottle feed them, you do NOT need to say yes.
It’s perfectly reasonable to set ground rules like everyone who comes in contact with the baby washes their hands first or even wears a mask. Additionally, more parents are implementing a “no kissing the baby rule”. RSV, Herpes, flu and other possible dangers are no joke when it comes to your baby’s immature immune system.
You might want to send out a mass email or text before seeing family that clearly communicates your wishes.
Additionally, we all know family can get on our nerves or hurt our feelings with:
- Unsolicited advice
- Rude comments or backhanded compliments
- Invasive or personal questions
Especially when it comes to how you decide to care for your child, these situations can get really tricky.
The best thing to do is have a plan going into the situation. Come up with some questions or comments you might get and practice how you’ll respond to them. If you have a long flight this can be a pocket of time to figure out a comeback or topic to switch to. A lot of times it’s best to not engage rather than proving your point-especially when the family member has a history of not listening or trying to get a rise out of people. It’s simply not worth your mental health or time.
You don’t need to answer anything you’re not comfortable with (a “Wow, I’m surprised you’re comfortable asking me that” can do wonders). It’s perfectly fine to respond with “Hmm that’s interesting. Thanks for sharing” when your cousin tells you about a new diet, or how you're coddling your baby with too much attention (eye roll).
As long as you have a healthy, balanced diet in general, there’s no need to be too concerned when it comes to the sugary, fatty foods or the odd glass of mulled wine that are hallmarks of the holiday season.
Stop by the grocery store or bring some snacks if you need to eat more than just the scheduled meals since breastfeeding burns a lot of calories. Mark anything as yours that you stick in the fridge or cupboard. No one should have a problem with this, but if they do, kindly remind them you literally have another human depending on you for food.
A lot of us are stretched thin right now—both mentally and financially. If you have the time, energy, and money to get nice gifts for everyone go for it, but you can definitely opt out as well. Just let others know ahead of time.
Some families prioritize the kids in gift giving, while others draw names. Skip the stocking stuffers and gag gifts altogether—our wallets and environment don’t need them. Don’t give a gift just for the sake of it—we don’t need more things we’ll never use and that will just end up in landfill.
Pack folded up gift bags and some tissue paper in your suitcase so gift wrapping will be a breeze—you’re not Martha Stewart.
And just a quick reminder: there's no shame in struggling. If you simply can’t afford shiny new toys for everyone, it’s OK to opt out altogether and let people know you're not expecting anything in return.
Even if there’s room at the host's place, don’t feel live you have to stay there. Having your own hotel or Airbnb can be a great way to reduce stress while traveling during the holidays. You’ll have more privacy, your own space to unwind and relax, and if your kid is getting fussy you don’t have to worry about disturbing others. Inlaws and family can also be a lot, so knowing you’ll have your own place to crash later in the evening can be a life saver.
If staying in your own place isn’t feasible, be sure to ask the host where you can pump/nurse/have a quiet minute alone. It’s okay to ask for what you need.
Simplicity can be the most elegant and charming way to decorate. Put some pine branches in a jar for the table or mantle. Make sugared fruits (like pears and pomegranates) and put them in a wooden bowl for a delicious and natural winter centerpiece. Keep a seasonal candle in the bathroom. You don’t need to go all out to set a festive atmosphere—and if spots get crowded with guests you’ll be happy for every corner not being covered in decorations.
It’s fine to ask guests to bring a side dish or drinks or even order a meal kit (they can be delicious and perfectly cooked!).
If you’re tired don’t push yourself to stay awake. Just tell everyone you’re headed to bed but they’re welcome to stay up and continue to celebrate (quietly). Just because you’re the host doesn’t mean you don’t have needs or boundaries. This can also be a great time for your partner to step up and handle the guests while you focus on your little one.
A couple things to remember:
- You can leave early!
- Buy instead of making baked goods. It’s okay to decline altogether.
- Keep your outfit simple—you don’t need to go shopping for new clothes if you don’t want to. An all black outfit with some gold or silver jewelry is always incredibly chic and festive.
Not to be cliche, but more than ever we need to remind ourselves that the holidays are not about buying things, over-the-top decorations, or stretching ourselves so thin we don’t enjoy the season. It’s okay to keep things simple and celebrate with your loved ones however works best for you.
The best gift you can give your little one is a happy mom.
And if you have any tips or ideas that help you through the holiday season while breastfeeding, leave them below for other moms and caregivers.