When holidays and changes in routine interrupt breastfeeding

As the holidays start and visitors arrive many people find their normal “routine” goes out the window and you seem to spend time rushing around after everyone else – even more than usual!  It’s easy with all the festivities and visitors to attend to, to find that you just  don’t have as much time to sit down with your baby/child to cuddle and breastfeed as you would do normally.  It’s often a time when children don’t behave in the way they would do at any other time of year and older babies especially, get very distracted by all the interesting activity around them.

Most babies will naturally breastfeed beyond a year old; if a baby suddenly stops breastfeeding before a year old it is quite likely to be a “nursing strike”.  A nursing strike doesn’t mean your baby necessarily wants to stop breastfeeding but it does mean something has got in the way of, or made him want to stop breastfeeding right now.  Sometimes it’s not possible to ever find out exactly what caused it, but time and patience will often solve it.  It might be a sore ear, stuffy nose or something else physical that is making breastfeeding uncomfortable, or it might just be that there are so many distractions and small delays in breastfeeding for a couple of days that your baby just stops asking.

So what can you do if it happens? 

Well, as this most often happens to babies around 7 months upwards, there is no rush to replace the lack of breastfeeding with lots of other drinks and foods – your baby is probably quite a strong little thing by now and eating some solids.  You can express your milk and give it to him in a cup if he wants it – expressing will also help to maintain your milk supply and prevent engorgement, blocked ducts etc.  Avoid bottles and pacifiers though as these will just satisfy the urge to suck with something other than your breast.  Some mothers find that trying to feed when their baby is sleepy or drowsy works, others find feeding in the bath, while standing or rocking, trying a totally different position than your baby is used to, and sometimes just leaving it for a day or two so there is less tension and anxiety around breastfeeding.  Usually after a few days, but sometimes as long as a couple of weeks, things return to normal for no apparent reason.

Young babies don’t enjoy being passed around from one person to another but it can be difficult to deter excited family and friends.  Using a wrap or sling is an easy way to keep your baby close and calm during these times, and means that your baby can remain peaceful and relaxed… feeding in a room where there are less people can be useful too. You might feel more relaxed and your baby is less likely to be distracted.  Young babies are so beautiful that people just can’t resist touching them but it is very distracting for a baby to have his or her head touched – especially when they are feeding.

There is very little food that is banned now your baby has been born, but if you have concerns over your supply it might be best to avoid too much sage or peppermint as both are reported to reduce supply in some women.  Alcohol can suppress the milk let-down reflex and make babies sleepy so some mothers prefer to avoid alcohol altogether, however if you do have the odd glass of wine or enjoy an extra helping of the sherry trifle, your baby is likely to be fine. For more information on breastfeeding and alcohol you might like to download Feed Safe, a free app released in collaboration with WellSouth Primary Health Network, more info here: http://www.feedsafe.net. 

Finding time out for peace and quiet with your little one can be hard though at this time of year, and can lead to frustration and worry.  There’s nothing worse than feeling you are on your own with a problem and there is no one available to listen or help… and sometimes the “help” and “advice” from visiting relatives and friends is, well, unhelpful!

Over the holidays many organisations are closed so don’t forget to check out where your local support is. The Breast Room® is available online on Facebook throughout the entire year, as well as via email: getsupport@thebreastroom.org. Breastfeeding Peer Supporters in Otago and Southland can be found here: www.breastfeedingsos.co.nz, and a national list of  La Leche League Leaders is here: https://lalecheleague.org.nz/get-help/. 

Happy Holidays every one! 





Photo: Adrian Balasoiu www.unsplash.com