The holidays are an exciting time, but they can be stressful, especially for breastfeeding moms. There are many questions you might have. Can I drink alcohol and still breastfeed my baby? How can I travel with my breastfeeding baby? What are the rules for flying?
The changes the holidays bring to your normal routine might make you feel a little crazed. But it's important to not let that interfere with breastfeeding. Here are 10 things you need to know about breastfeeding during the holidays, including how drinking alcohol affects breastfeeding, how to stay on your breastfeeding schedule during holiday activities, traveling with stored breastmilk, and more.
Q: Can I drink alcohol when breastfeeding? If so, how much alcohol is safe to drink while breastfeeding?
A: Moderate alcohol consumption is OK. When done in moderation, reasonable alcohol intake is not discouraged during breastfeeding because very little alcohol comes out in breastmilk. For more specific guidelines, check with your healthcare provider. However, it is generally recommended that breastfeeding moms avoid breastfeeding while drinking, and if they do drink, for two to three hours after drinking.
Q: How many hours does alcohol stay in my system? How long until it makes its way to my breastmilk and does the age of my baby make a difference?
A: Always keep in mind how old your baby is when thinking about drinking. A newborn has a very immature liver, so very small amounts of alcohol would take more time to metabolize. At three months, infants detoxify alcohol at about half the rate of an adult. An older baby or toddler can metabolize the alcohol more quickly.
Q: Do I need to "pump and dump" if I drink alcohol?
A: You don't have to "pump and dump" breastmilk. This isn't necessary after drinking alcohol, other than for your own comfort to ease overfull breasts. Contrary to popular belief, pumping and dumping does not get the alcohol out of your breastmilk faster.
Q: Does beer increase my breastmilk supply?
A: Contrary to old wives' tales, beer does not increase supply and can actually interfere with let-down and decrease your supply.
Q: Will different holiday foods (especially those that are spicy) affect my breastmilk?
A: Breastfeeding moms don't have to avoid any foods while breastfeeding, but it is a good idea to keep an eye out for sensitivities. You may notice fussiness, excessive spitting up, vomiting, or a rash if baby is reacting to something you ate. Sometimes babies are fussy and it might have nothing to do with what a mom has eaten. Food sensitivities in breastfed babies are not as common as many mothers have been led to believe, though some babies do react to certain foods, especially if a mom did not eat them while pregnant. If a breastfed baby is sensitive to a particular food, he might be fussy after feedings, cry for long periods, or have disrupted sleep and wake suddenly with obvious discomfort. Sensitivities or symptoms in breastfed babies related to foods can show up within 24 hours after breastfeeding. If baby has a reaction to a new food, or to a food that mom ate a large amount of, then he will probably be back to normal within a couple of hours.
Q: How do I keep my breastfeeding schedule during the holidays? Is it okay to skip a feeding or pumping session?
A: Try to keep on schedule as much as possible. If you skip a feeding, you will signal your body to make less milk or you could get engorged and uncomfortable. If you're away from your baby, don't forget your pump! Try to pump as often as baby usually breastfeeds to maintain your breastmilk supply. If you don't want to bring your electric pump with you, you can bring a small, portable manual pump or you could hand express whenever you feel uncomfortably full. This will help keep up your supply, and help to avoid mastitis or other potential issues.
Q: During the holidays, I'm often with friends and family. I want to breastfeed, but sometimes feel like there's too much going on. What should I do?
A: Breastfeed wherever you're comfortable. While it might feel awkward, remember that you need to keep producing milk for your baby. As far as being nervous about breastfeeding in front of friends or family, that is your call as to your comfort level. Remember there is nothing to be ashamed of when feeding your baby. You are providing your baby with nourishment and nurturing. Consider breastfeeding in a quiet area. Older babies can get distracted very easily, so it might be easier to go to a place that does not have a lot of action and is a calmer environment so you and your baby can have a little break together. This is not to hide the fact that you are breastfeeding, rather, it is to try to minimize distractions. The excitement of the holiday can get anyone over-stimulated, especially a baby who might not be used to so many new experiences. Breastfeeding can be that reassuring act that can calm your baby and provide the ease and comfort he might need.
Q: How do I travel with stored breastmilk?
A: While breastmilk is OK to leave at room temperature for up to eight hours, temperatures can vary when you are traveling. So bring a cooler and frozen packs with you to ensure that your breastmilk stays cool during travel. While breastmilk storage bags are a great way to store your breastmilk when you are at home or have access to a refrigerator or freezer, bring storage bottles with you to store your pumped breastmilk when traveling. They are less likely to get damaged while in transit. Find a good place to pump. You can do this by checking with the airline to see if it will let you use its executive lounge so you can have a quiet, clean place to pump. Many lounges have private rooms for conference calls or meetings. Some airports have nice mother's lounges as well. Bring batteries with you (and extras just in case) so you can pump even if you don't have access to an electrical outlet. And after you've pumped, make sure you have a place to store breastmilk. Inquire with the hotel or wherever you are staying about the possibility of borrowing or renting a minibar fridge for your stay. Or, use ice from an ice machine if it is available to keep your breastmilk chilled while you are in your room after pumping. Breastfeeding and pumping moms in our company have found that using the ice bucket or even filing the sink with ice is a good way to keep multiple bottles of breastmilk cool. If none of these options are available with you, a small cooler bag with frozen packs is a good alternative.
Q: What are the TSA rules and regulations for breastmilk and formula?
A: According to the TSA, mothers flying with and without their child are permitted to bring breastmilk in quantities greater than three ounces as long as it is declared for inspection at the security checkpoint. Breastmilk falls into the same category as liquid medications. So when you take formula, breastmilk, or juice through a checkpoint, it will be looked at but you won't be asked to taste test it yourself. The officers at the checkpoint might look at it for explosives or open it though. Just remember to tell the officers that you have pumped breastmilk or formula, and they'll lead you through the process. You're also allowed to bring liquid-filled teethers and baby food in your carry-on baggage.
Q: How do I continue breastfeeding while traveling?
A: If you're traveling without your baby, it'll help to prepare before you leave. Pump some breastmilk for your baby to have while you're gone and try to leave more than you think they'll drink, just in case (you never know what will happen)! Pack your pump, and bring extra parts and batteries, in case you don't have access to electricity. And stick to a pumping schedule the best you can to keep your supply up. If you're traveling with your baby and driving, try to plan your stops to breastfeed in advance. This way, you and your baby will both get a little break from the car and you'll know exactly how long you'll have to wait between feedings. If you're flying with your baby, let your baby breastfeed during takeoff and landing to help keep their ears from hurting. And if you can, try to get a seat by the window or aisle, so your baby can have a little room to spread out and won't kick your neighbors.
I hope these help! Have any more questions about breastfeeding and the holidays? Ask me in a comment below, and I'd be happy to answer!