Surviving the Holidays with Family

Written by: Sabrina Granniss, IBCLC

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Time to read 6 min

Holidays bring the excitement of celebrations and gatherings with friends and family. Old traditions are enjoyed, new traditions are made, and, of course, everyone gets excited to see the baby. Avoid added stress or pressures the holidays bring with ways to enjoy the festivities while continuing to breastfeed. Planning ahead will help you survive the holidays and have fun doing so. 

The first several weeks postpartum are referred to as the fourth trimester. This period of time is important yet often overlooked. It is a time to focus on supporting the mother, nurturing her so she may rest and recover, establishing an abundant milk supply, and caring for her infant. Many cultures around the world have a tradition of caring for the mother in specific ways during this timeframe. The initial resting period lasts anywhere from 21 days to 5 weeks, during which other family members take care of all the household and family duties giving the mother time to rest and recuperate from giving birth. (1) Remember to be gentle with yourself if your holiday celebrations occur during the fourth trimester.


Traditional postpartum foods are prepared and fed to the mother during the first several weeks postpartum to nourish her after birthing her baby and to establish a milk supply. Herbs, foods, and tonics can help promote milk production, boost immunity, and cleanse the body, giving the mother more energy and warm the body. Many cultures believe the postpartum period to be cooling to the body. Many of these traditional foods, herbs, and beverages continue to be supportive throughout the breastfeeding journey.

Holiday mealtime tips

  • Let other people help - you are already doing a lot by caring for your baby. People like to help and contribute, so let them. 
  • Make a dish that you love and feels nourishing to you - this also means no matter what everyone else makes, you will have food you love and makes you feel good. Add ingredients that support your milk supply. Many herbs found in holiday dishes are also the best herbs for lactation.
  • Buy it instead of making it - sometimes, this is easiest and just what is needed to reduce your stress.
  • Feeding the baby - be clear with family and friends about what foods, if any, they may or may not give to your baby.

Foods & herbs that support milk supply

  • Oatmeal - a great holiday breakfast idea. Add healthy fats by sprinkling some chopped walnuts and coconut oil on top.
  • Dates - one of the easiest and most filling treats is stuffing a pitted date with a raw Brazil nut or dipping it in almond butter. Medjool dates are softer and larger than Deglets.
  • Fennel - It is a known galactagogue that also aids digestion. 
  • Ginger - is soothing for a sore throat or upset tummy after large holiday meals. A warm cup of ginger tea is a soothing way to end a meal. It also promotes milk flow.
  • Garlic - easy to add to any savory dish. It has antibacterial, antiviral, and antifungal properties and is an anti-inflammatory. (2) 

Garlic boosts your immunity. In one study, babies drank more milk when their mothers had garlic before they nursed their babies. (3)

  • Turmeric is an anti-inflammatory that can also boost milk supply and help relieve mastitis. (5)
  • Carrots, beets, and yams make fantastic side dishes for holiday meals. They are nutrient-dense foods that support milk production and your liver.
  • Green leafy vegetables - these are packed with minerals and vitamins for milk production. Eat them raw, added to salads, sauteed or steamed.

Foods & herbs that can lower milk supply

  • Sage* - contains a natural form of estrogen and can reduce the milk supply
  • Peppermint* - slows down milk production. Some people are more sensitive than others to the effects of peppermint.
  • Parsley* - can reduce milk flow (4)
  • Thyme* - for some mothers, it can decrease milk production
  • Oregano* - used in concentration can reduce milk supply
  • Alcohol - While it is safe to have an alcoholic drink while you are breastfeeding and pumping, and there is no need to pump and dump your milk, drinking alcohol can inhibit the milk ejection reflex (let down) and can diminish milk supply. 
  • Sugar - for people who are insulin resistant, too much sugar elevates blood sugar levels and reduces milk supply.
  • Citrus* - foods that are astringent can impact the milk supply

*The amount of herbs or citrus typically used in a recipe for holiday dishes is considered safe for most people while breastfeeding. If you battle low supply or are sensitive to fluctuations in your milk supply, you should avoid the herbs altogether.

Planning family visits

  • Travel - plan ahead, leaving extra time for stopping to meet your and your baby’s needs. 

  • Talk to your partner - being on the same page so you can work as a team helps. They can help you get your needs met and help answer questions from curious relatives about your baby’s nursing and sleeping and all the other inquiries they have. Have a code word for signaling you are ready to leave or need some backup.
  • Ask about where you will be staying - if staying with friends or relatives, it can help to know what is in the room you will be staying in to plan what nighttime will look like. You’ll also know where you can sneak away if you need time alone to nurse, pump, or just rest and reset.
  • Make your needs clear - relatives may not know what you need or how they can help you unless you tell them. Give them specific ways to help you so you can continue to care for your baby.
  • It is okay to say no - if it becomes clear that you will not be able to visit this time, it is alright to say so.
  • Every family has the one person who just doesn’t have nice things to say about how you are raising your baby - if this happens, you can decide to educate them if they would be willing to hear it, or it is alright just to say, “Thanks, I will keep that in mind.” and move along.
  • Have a dedicated spot for cleaning your bottle and pump parts.
  • Milk storage - ask where you can store your breastmilk if visiting others or plan to bring what you need for safe milk storage.

Maintaining milk supply during the holidays

  • Wear your baby - keeping your baby in your sling allows you to nurse them more often and avoid your baby getting passed around too much or at the wrong times. 
  • Stick to your regular nursing/pumping routine - follow your baby’s cues and stick to your regular nursing or pumping times. Stretching out time between nursing or pumping can reduce your supply or lead to clogged ducts or mastitis.
  • Take time to rest - it can be easy to overdo it, so take breaks and rest to avoid being overtired or overstressed, which can decrease milk supply.
  • Keep taking your vitamins and milk supply supplements - It can be easy to forget when you are out of your regular routine and busy with guests. Prepare and put your supplements where you see them or in a pill organizer.
  • Stay hydrated - drink enough water and eat hydrating foods. Besides water, the best lactation drinks to pack are low-sugar coconut water or teas like Legendairy Milk’s Tea-Tas.
  • Be comfortable - wear comfortable clothes that allow you to pump or nurse your baby easily. 
  • Have a spot to nurse or pump if you prefer to do so away from others.

Great holiday gifts to give

  • A framed photo of your baby or family
  • Your baby’s footprint framed or on an ornament
  • Rubber stamp made of your baby’s footprint
  • Gift cards are easy for the least amount of work
  • Order a gift basket to be delivered

The holidays and celebrations often take on new meaning when you have a baby. It can be exciting to share time with friends and family who are so happy to see you and your new addition to the family. Having others to hold your baby can be nice, giving you a little break. Planning ahead for food, travel, or entertaining guests and communicating with your partner all help you to take care of yourself and your baby during the busy holidays. Take time to relax and enjoy the celebrations, remembering the most important part of the holidays is making memories together.

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