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Surviving the Holidays with Family

holiday family gathering

 

Holidays always 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. The holidays are often accompanied by added stress or pressures as you consider making the holiday meal, preparations for gift-giving, traveling to see family, or hosting family at your home and the hustle and bustle all while continuing to take care of your baby.

The first several weeks postpartum are referred to as the fourth trimester. This 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 in which other family members take care of all the household and family duties allowing the mother to rest and recuperate from giving birth.(1) Remember to be gentle with yourself if your holiday celebrations fall during the fourth trimester.

Traditional postpartum foods are given 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 to cleanse the body giving the mother more energy and warming the body because many cultures believe the postpartum period to be cooling to the body. Many of these foods, herbs, and beverages continue to be supportive throughout your breastfeeding journey.

Holiday Meals

  • Let other people help out - you are already doing a lot by taking care of a 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.
  • 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 what foods if any they may or may not give to your baby.

Foods and 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 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 deglet dates.
  • 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 nice way to end a meal. It promotes milk flow.
  • Garlic - easy to add to any savory dish. It has antibacterial, antiviral, anti-fungal, and is anti-inflammatory.(2) Garlic boosts your immunity. In one study, babies drank more milk when their mother had garlic before they nursed their baby.(3)
  • Turmeric - a known anti-inflammatory that can also boost milk supply and help relieve mastitis.(5)
  • Carrots, beets, and yams - they all make fantastic side dishes for holiday meals. They are nutrient-dense foods and are all supportive for the liver.
  • Green leafy vegetables - these are packed full of vitamins and minerals. Eat them raw, added to salads, sautéed or steamed.

Foods and Herbs That Can Lower Milk Supply

  • Sage - contains a natural form of estrogen and can reduce 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 - 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 milk supply*

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

Planning Family Visits

  • Travel - plan ahead and leave extra time for stops 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 and know the space you can sneak away to if you need some 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 ok to say no - if it becomes clear that you will not be able to visit this time around, it is alright to say so.
  • Every family has 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 to just 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 will be able to 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 normal nursing or pumping times. Stretching out time between nursing or pumping can end up reducing 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.
  • Take your vitamins and supplements - It can be easy to forget when you are out of your normal routine and busy with guests. Prepare ahead and put your supplements where you will see them or in a pill organizer.
  • Stay hydrated - drink enough water and eat hydrating foods
  • Be comfortable - wear clothes you are comfortable in and allow you to be able 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. It can be nice to have others hold your baby giving you a little break. Relax and enjoy remembering the most important part of the holidays is making memories together.

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Footnotes:

  1. https://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.2217/17455057.3.4.487
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4458355/
  3. https://pubmed.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/8108198/
  4. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501880/
  5. https://www.drugs.com/breastfeeding/turmeric.html 

Other Resources:

http://www.mobimotherhood.org/lactogenic-foods-and-herbs.html

https://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/herbs/herbal-ref/

https://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/herbs/herbs-oversupply/

https://drlact.com/drug/920/oregano-in-breastfeeding

https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/books/NBK501851/


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