The holidays bring with them time spent with friends and family, celebration, and merriment. Sounds great, right? Sure, but it’s not all candy canes and mistletoe. Parents of babies and young children can attest to the kinds of challenges you can expect. We’re parents ourselves and have spent a number of years supporting Ottawa families as postpartum doulas. We’ve learned a few things along the way about how holiday survival really works. We’ll take you through the pitfalls and what you can do about them.
Inevitably women will notice a dip in their milk supply around the holidays. Why? We get busy and when we’re busy we have a hard time slowing down to spend the time nursing. We may miss or skip some feeds here and there. Doing that over the course of several days to a week or more and you will experience some dip in your milk supply. Those missed feeds, or feeds that are prematurely shortened because your guests arrived, or the cookies are about to burn, can lead to complications like blocked ducts and even potentially mastitis. It’s important to keep moving the milk from your breasts, evenly, and thoroughly. Think of nursing as a means of enjoying some peace and quiet, and giving yourself the permission and space to slow down throughout the busy days. You’ve got a built in excuse and it’s a good one. Escape to a quiet bedroom to cuddle with your babe. Take a moment to sit down in that comfy chair and nestle baby in for a feed. All well and good right? We know. If you really can’t slow down the best way to ensure you’re still getting that feed in is to nurse your baby while wearing them in your favourite wrap or carrier.
It’s not only milk supply that can take a hit this time of year, sleep also falls victim to the holidays. Remember all that merriment? Exciting, right? Sure and it’s also exciting for your baby. Very exciting, sometimes too exciting. Babies, especially young babies, can become easily overstimulated by all the sounds, lights, and faces of all of those friends and family members. Overstimulated babies are babies that are harder to settle, babies that are “fussy”, and babies that have difficulty falling asleep. Watch for signs that your baby is becoming overstimulated. Is your baby turning their eyes and head away from someone trying to interact with them? Are your baby’s movements increasing in intensity? Are your baby’s coos turning into more of a whine or squeal? Yes answers here mean you’re on the path to a full fledged infant holiday meltdown, even more so if your baby was tired to begin with. If you’re not at home bring your baby’s sleep space with you – pack that Moses basket, or pack and play. If you have one this is the perfect job for a baby box. Familiarity is comforting and knowing your baby has a safe sleep space also affords you peace of mind. Set up in a quiet place – it gives both you and your baby a moment away to regroup and connect.
Remember our talk about how an overstimulated baby is an unhappy baby? Missed feeds, lots of eager arms holding them, and excited people interacting with them is a recipe for a baby that is going to hit their limit fast. There is a balance here for you – you don’t want to step all over your mother in law’s toes, but your baby is going to need time spent with just their parents. A well fed, well slept baby is going to be more amenable to spending time with someone other than you so try to keep those basic needs at the forefront throughout the holiday visiting. Wearing your baby gives you an added comfort and calming tool, with the added bonus of allowing you to remain in the mix at the same time.
We didn’t forget you. You get a pass on things if you’re in your baby’s first year. In a perfect world there should be no expectations on you to do anything over the holidays. Keeping yourself and a baby healthy, happy, and whole is more than enough. We do know that isn’t always how things go though so our suggestions are made with your mental, physical, and emotional comfort in mind. Take care of your baby, but take care of yourself too. When your baby eats and drinks you do the same. Rest when you can, escape when you need to. We hope you enjoy this time, however you celebrate.
Keeping your baby close helps you both remain connected. It’s a highly effective tool for holiday survival – helps baby nap, avoids overstimulation, and you’re less likely to miss feeds. Babies can be fed while worn, and if baby is with you you’re less likely to miss a hunger signal because your little one is being held by someone else. Parents can share in the wearing, as can an older sibling if they’re old and big enough. Let’s face it, that’s where most babies want to be anyway. The odd unicorn baby will be quite content to be held and passed around by extended family and friends, but most will tire of that quickly. You may be new to babywearing, but we can help. Join us for Babywearing 101. You can see demos, ask questions about how you can use babywearing to survive the holidays and life in general, and practice under the gentle guidance of a certified babywearing educator. National Capital Doulas doulas Amie Scharfe and Andria Bell will be on hand to share babywearing expertise. You can also book us to join you at your home for a private babywearing education session.
Have more questions? Contact NCD today and find out how we can help ease you through this exciting time.