Breastfeeding Around the Holidays

Breastfeeding in the comfort of your own home is one thing, but nursing around your relatives during the busy holiday season has its own set of challenges.

I took a quick survey of moms using Twitter and found a couple of themes that came up:

@katylinda said her biggest holiday nursing issue was – family feeling the need to judge my nursing relationship ;-)

@lamamanaturale – biggest is definitely my parent’s and grandparent’s comments – who think that teeth is the first sign to wean!

@barefootexec – my biggest issues were privacy…and foods that were not normally part of our diet… oh not to mention WARDROBE challenges!

@herbgardens – How difficult it is to find nice holiday outfits that are nursing friendly. I don’t care if it offends. I am over that.

@spookygirl – Biggest BF’ing issue around the holidays? Getting baby to stop trying to look at everything at once and actually nurse! LOL!

I thought I would address some of these issues here and give some suggestions on how to make things a little easier.

Some moms opt to pump their milk and bottle feed expressed milk during this time. That is an option, however, if you’re not accustomed to pumping, the busy/stressful holiday season is a bad time to start. It could be discouraging when you don’t get enough milk as you think you should (since babies are far better at extracting milk from the breast than any pump) and if your pump isn’t high quality, you could even injure yourself.

It’s far easier to simply nurse the baby as you normally do, but how do you get around some of these issues?

A lot of moms find that a baby sling is an absolute necessity when breastfeeding around busy times or when privacy may be invaded by sheer volume of people or nosiness!

A baby sling covers you up but also creates a little cocoon for baby so he can get down to business and nurse. If your baby skips feedings due to being passed around from person to person and getting overstimulated, you may end up with a plugged duct. You don’t want that!

Plugged ducts are common during the holidays anyway due to the additional activity and stress. A plugged milk duct can turn into mastitis which is quite painful and can leave you feeling like you’ve been hit by a truck, so make sure you take the time to settle baby down and nurse on a regular basis.

It’s also important that you get enough rest. Mastitis is a nursing mom’s warning signal that she is trying to do too much and wearing herself down. Put your feet up when it’s time for a feeding, do some relaxing breaths and nap if possible. Don’t forget to feed yourself well too. Don’t binge on junk food but keep eating a healthy, whole foods diet to keep your immune system strong.

Joseph in Sling_front_0318c
Creative Commons License photo credit: hoyasmeg

A sling also helps with pesky relatives who want to hold your baby while s/he screams for you. What’s up with that anyway?! I never could figure out why some people seem to love to make a baby cry for their mother.


If you or your husband are wearing the baby, people will be less likely to bother your infant or try to sneak solid foods into him before you’re ready. Like the time my ex husband’s aunt gave my THREE MONTH OLD chocolate mousse.

How do you deal with criticism from relatives who don’t respect your parenting philosophies?

That can be a tough one. If the relative is female, sometimes it helps to keep in mind that her own experience with breastfeeding colors her perspective. If she had a hard time and felt bad about not being able to breastfeed, she might be critical of you.

If this is a person you only see once a year, it might be best to drop the subject and just let snide comments flow right past you.

But if it’s going to be an ongoing problem, it’s probably best to head off comments at the pass by saying something like,

“Her father and I have decided that is what’s best for our family. I do appreciate your perspective on things.”

In other words, thanks but no thanks.

I interviewed breastfeeding expert and author Amy Spangler who had this to say on the subject:

“We need to be able to say,

Gosh! What was your breastfeeding experience? Did something happen to make you feel this way?

I think we all might be amazed at the outpouring of emotions that we might get in return. If we give those individuals a chance to say why they feel the way they feel because I just think that it is a response to something bottled up inside of them.

Maybe guilt is what is driving part of that and I am a firm believer that we do not make a woman feel guilty. Guilt comes from within. It belongs to each of us.”

So even though it may be difficult, it’s a good idea to use compassion. Keep in mind too that the older generation of women had little support or good information for breastfeeding. Formula feeding was considered more ideal, more progressive, more scientific, and cleaner even. Many women were told that formula was best – by their baby’s Doctor! So that is the place they are speaking from.

Amy had some other gems of wisdom:

“I think for many grandparents, the hard part is for them to understand that because you are making a different choice does not mean that you are denigrating their choice.

What you are saying to them is I have different information available to me.  Now when I am pregnant with my child than you had when you were pregnant with my husband or my partner or whomever.

Oftentimes that grandparent feels like “Oh, this mom that is breastfeeding is saying I wasn’t a very good mother because I bottle fed this baby’s father.”

That is not what you are saying at all, so I think to open up that discussion and put it out there allows for everybody to quit walking around and to be able to have a comfort level with it.”

More on breastfeeding and family support.

When it comes to finding cute, nursing friendly clothing to wear, well, we’ve got that covered!

Breastfeeding dresses

Breastfeeding tops


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9 People have left comments on this post

» Carrie Wilkerson, The Barefoot said: { Nov 27, 2008 - 03:11:01 }

Nicely done – so many challenges to parenting…PERIOD – and to complicate things like this around holidays CAN be so defeating.

Do what is best for YOU and YOUR baby. No justification necessary.

You are the one financially supporting this child.
You are the one there in the middle of the night.
You are the one in 11 years picking them up at a slumber party when they don’t feel like they’re fitting in.

It’s all YOU

not them :)

Enjoy these times…as the mom of 4 — they are TOO fleeting!

Carrie Wilkerson, The Barefoot Executive

» Cassie said: { Nov 27, 2008 - 09:11:27 }

Great post! I remember having so many issues with family, friends and even strangers when I was breastfeeding. I would get extremely disgusted and dirty looks from women passing me by when I was completely covered while breastfeeding. You couldn’t even see the baby!

I also had a lot of male members of my family try and sneak peaks while I was feeding which was really creepy.

But the worst is when people give you their unwanted advice or criticism. I could never muster up the guts to defend myself, speak my mind, or even politely change the subject. That being said, I still really really miss those days. There’s no other experience like breastfeeding.

» Alice said: { Nov 27, 2008 - 11:11:25 }

Why do we have to shout in your comments area, Carrie? ;-)

I will be nursing this Christmas and have in the past. Never thought about it. I just do what I got to do.

Never understood that some people could object to one of the most natural things in the world.

» Stacie said: { Nov 28, 2008 - 09:11:40 }


Great post! Thankfully, now that I’m nursing my 5th, the family is used to it, so I don’t have to deal with those issues any more, but what is up with people always trying to take your baby when your baby obviously doesn’t want to be taken. I really wish I’d known about slings sooner!

Anyway, this day is bitter sweet for me. Today is the first day that my daughter went the entire day without nursing. I started weaning earlier in the week, but today was the first full day with no nursing. She’s growing up so fast!

» Stacie said: { Nov 28, 2008 - 09:11:16 }

Oh boy, I just had a thought……I may have nursed for the last time ever. Wow – okay, now I’m sad. Off to bed to cuddle with my baby.

» admin said: { Nov 28, 2008 - 01:11:21 }

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» Shannon Smith said: { Nov 29, 2008 - 10:11:56 }

Great post!

It’s been a long time since we were breastfeeding around these parts, but I remember well the roadblocks. Especially the roadblock named family. They were supportive of the fact that I was and needed to, but it bothered them how open I was with it. LOL They were embarrassed that I breastfed in public. They thought I should stick a blanket over his head the whole time.

Guess what? He didn’t like the blanket. And I wasn’t showing anything more than the some of the women walking around in the skimpy clothing. You know? I didn’t care though. It’s my baby and my breast and if I don’t have a problem whipping it out in public, then too bad on them. LOL

I remember my nephew would get so upset, he was like 5 or 6 at the time, and his dad would be on his way to pick him up and I’d be sitting out on the balcony breastfeeding, and my nephew would be trying to hurry me up because he was afraid his dad would see my boob. Cracked me up.

» Adriana - Baby's First Year said: { Dec 1, 2008 - 02:12:21 }

It’s been a while since I personally nursed, but I don’t remember ever nursing in public. I always found a private place where me and my baby could do what we needed to do. I’d rather avoid confrontations or unwelcome comments.

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