You sit down to the dinner table on Thanksgiving Day with nursling in tow. The unenlightened relative to your left makes a joke about “juicy breasts” (on the turkey, natch), and the friend to your right commits you as her official Black Friday shopping buddy. It seems that everyone is begging to give your exclusively-breastfed baby a taste of the mashed potatoes, and the smell of sage wafts so heavy from the kitchen that you can taste it on your pecan pie.
How can a room full of blessings and joy be so full of breastfeeding landmines, too? Thankfully (because it’s just that holiday), you can move forth into the upcoming turkey-carving and gourd-displaying processions without threat to your nursing relationship so long as you know where to look.
Here’s a quick rundown.
THE DESSERT COURSE
Remember that yeast is not a nursing mom’s friend! Consider avoiding the dessert tray because yeast loves the starchy and sugary goodness of typical holiday treats even more than you do. And who wants to battle thrush through the winter? Also, avoid candy canes and other candies or drinks with peppermint, which is known to decrease milk supply when consumed.
So you’re wondering, what the hell can you eat at Thanksgiving dinner if starches and sugars are off the menu? Non-starchy veggies include onions, mushrooms, spinach, celery, carrots, and cucumber. Do like Walter White and get cookin’ with these bad boys.
TOO MUCH BOOZING
This year, think more along the lines of cocoa buttery nipple, rather than a Buttery Nipple that comes in a shot glass. If your idea of holiday spirit means your drinks are well-spirited too, that’s okay — you can safely imbibe (read more about that in my post on breastfeeding and alcohol use).
But you should know a few things: If you drink so much that you can’t hold your baby, you both lose out on opportunity for bonding during arguably the most family-centric day of the year. Also, alcohol is dehydrating, so you might want to curb your eggnog enthusiasm if your milk makers are sensitive to water balance. If you’re prone to thrush, keep in mind that many alcoholic drinks are heavy in sugars, which helps create the perfect place for a yeasty dance party.
Everyone’s an expert on babies these days, huh? Especially those without children, those who raised children half a century ago, and those who are still children themselves (or act like it!). I’m sure you already know that the ultimate expert on YOUR baby is YOU (some of us need extra help of course, but we’re usually very willing to ask for it).
Thanksgiving is wonderful because it brings family and loved ones together in close quarters and provides an intimate space to share all kinds of wisdom, memories, and guidance with each other. If you’re driving on a one-way street with this — say, in the matter of unsolicited baby-rearing advice — the “I’m trapped here with these crazies!” aspect of a holiday like Thanksgiving can make you wish you’d worn a STOP sign.
Here are a few responses that can help ease your suffering when Aunt Melba opines that co-sleeping is going to kill your baby, that crying will strengthen your baby’s lungs, that you’d stop complaining about lack of sleep if only you put rice cereal in your baby’s bottle, and other related craziness:
1). The Nice Route:
“I appreciate your advice. I’ll definitely think about that/try it.Thank you.” Then gently switch topics, and don’t mention that you wouldn’t follow the advice in a million lifetimes.
2). The Excuses, Excuses Route:
The reason why your baby can’t eat the cranberry sauce? Blame allergies! The reason why your baby still sleeps in your room? Blame the neighbors who play drums at midnight two walls away from his nursery! The reason why you cannot further communicate about your parenting choices in any way? Blame a legally-binding gag order! Blame it on whatever you want — point the finger somewhere, anywhere, just to get Aunt Melba to shut up.
3). The Smarty Pants Route:
“My pediatrician explained to me that _____.” Or “The World Health Organization actually recommends that _____.” Or “The most current research shows that _____.” You don’t have to memorize anything. If pressed to cite sources, tell the holier-than-thou questioner to cite the bellows of his own heart for common sense on the issue of attentive and loving parenting.
4). The Sarcastic Route:
“Yes, I’d love to hear your opinion about how to breastfeed my baby/how I’m putting my baby to sleep wrong/how my baby would’ve looked cuter in a holiday outfit instead of the same pajamas since yesterday. Especially because you’ve never breastfed my baby/you don’t sleep in my house/you don’t do my laundry. And also because I didn’t ask.”
5). The Dead End:
Just say “No” or “Okay” (or nothing at all), then walk away. Annnd… the gnat buzzing in your ear instantly disappears.
6). The Straight, No Chaser Route:
A version of The Dead End. Simply add a “Hell” to the “No” when faced with rudeness that cannot be ignored.
Chances are, you’ll meet someone who says or thinks along these lines: “You’re STILL breastfeeding?” “Oh, I bet you’re SO sore!” “So, you just kind of whip it out, huh?” “It’s probably time to stop babying him so much now, don’t you think?” “Oh, he’s SO spoiled!”
Chances are even greater during Thanksgiving with extended family and a good amount of perfect strangers mixed in (these chances are scientifically proven, I’m sure). So, what to do? How to react? Your options are great and varied, Nursaholic!
If you’re the drama-avoidance type, you can steal away into a private area to nurse when baby gets fussy. Get real hermit-like with it.Turn off the lights. Lock the door. Stuff a towel in the crack at the bottom so no one can even breathe into your airspace. What mama doesn’t crave privacy when given the perfect excuse?
If you don’t want to miss out on socializing but also don’t want weird Uncle Leery staring at your cleavage, break out a cover just for the day. I don’t mean one of those circus tent bib-type covers. You can achieve maximum coverage by using the two-shirt method (camisole or tank-top underneath pulled down, and a T-shirt or blouse on top, pulled up) or getting creative with a scarf, pashmina, or burp cloth. Practice in front of a mirror beforehand if you think this will make you feel most comfortable. Remember, the point is to cover any part of yourself that you’d like to obscure, if at all; don’t engulf your baby in extra material — baby needs to breathe!
If you’re the “your problem ain’t my problem” type, then you might consider getting cozy with your nursling somewhere front stage and center. This way everyone can admire your dyad’s emanating beauty and power. Yes, everyone including the haters. You know they’re just jealous that you’re such a badass Nusaholic.
If you’re the theatrical type, you can break out into song! Watch how it’s done:
PLAYING HOT POTATO BABY
Don’t pass baby around like he’s a hot potato or a communal joint. It’s sick season, you know!
I love bacteria and all, because it’s so good for our immune health and digestive tracts, but any foreign germ forced upon my baby via a wet kiss from Aunt Melba is a big no-no. Don’t be afraid to insist that sneezy Aunt Melba take her snotty nose and coughing fits elsewhere. And that no, she cannot hold your immunologically under-developed baby for her Facebook photo op.
If you don’t feel comfortable with someone holding, touching, or breathing near your baby, you aren’t a bitch for saying so (or at the very least requesting that grabby folks use hand sanitizer first). This is YOUR BABY. A human being no lesser than any other. Not a doll.
My only advice is… just say no. An adult can get over such a mild offense as “No, he doesn’t want to be with anyone but mama right now.” A baby is able to “get over” very little on his own. Especially sickness, more than anything.
You are your baby’s protector. It’s a powerful place to be, so own that shit and say “NO, hands off!” if you know your gut wishes it could.
DOING IT ALL
Did you know that Super-Mommyness is anti-breastfeeding? I know, it sounds like an excuse to be lazy, but it’s true.
Not only do stress and lack of sleep increase a mother’s risk of getting sick, they can also make a sloth out of the milk duct system. In turn, this results in a fussy baby, then a distressed mom, then even more lost sleep and added anxiety, and the cycle just spins and spins.
This Thanksgiving, give up trying to be a “Super Mom.” Instead, why not be a “Supper Mom”? Yep, that means you get to just show up somewhere and eat, eat, eat with no other tasks “on your plate” except for what’s literally on your plate.
But how’s that even fair? It’s fair because you never stop working — you make breakfast, lunch, dinner, snacks, and edible comfort and medicine and intellect for your nursling from your OWN DAMN NATURE-MADE KITCHEN itself.
Beat that, Betty Crocker.
Fact: Over-the-counter decongestants are anti-galactogogues. This means they’ve been shown to turn human breast milk into sand (not really, but things can get pretty dry).
As a breastfeeder, you can safely combat allergy and cold symptoms with over-the-counter medicines like Advil, Tylenol, saline nasal sprays/Afrin, or a room humidifier. Be sure to check any medicine for decongestant ingredients as drug formulations do change sometimes without warning.
Natural decongestant ingredients:
Apple cider vinegar
Spicy foods like peppers, salsa, curry
Citrus fruits and oils
Herbs such as:
- Tea Tree
Try one of these recipes/solutions:
Steam Treatment with diffused oils
VARIOUS HERBS & SPICES
Midwives have long recommended sage tea to dry up milk in the event of a stillbirth (not exactly the most festive and cheerful herb of them all). Sage is a potent milk inhibitor along with other herbs popularly sprinkled into Thanksgiving skillets nationwide. You might consider buying your own breastfeeding-friendly side dishes this year to avoid a surprise slip of sage.
Click here for a list of other herbs that can decrease breast milk supply.
Give Thanks For…
THE DESSERT COURSE
Wait! Didn’t I call out the dessert course as a booby adversary?!
I did. But, if sugars and starches aren’t an issue, then Nursaholics should feel free to indulge! After all, breastfeeding burns at least 500 calories per day. Don’t even bother hitting the gym the morning after Thanksgiving, like the rest of America still semi-comatose from tryptophan overload. Just lay in bed with your top off and snuggle with your baby until noon. Multiple Thanksgiving Day indulgences are no match against the marathoning breastfeeder metabolism.
Are you going the distance to meet your loved ones for Turkey Day this year? Here are my top tips for air-traveling Nursaholics:
1). Bring snacks. Cranky babies can be sedated by a mouthful of boob. Cranky moms are limited to the on-flight selection of Chardonnay or single-serving pouches of trail mix. Have fun with that.
2). Stay hydrated.The adult human body averages about 65% of water. The adult lactating human body averages that plus a continuous fountain of rich milk. So, stay thirsty my friends…. just not my nursing mama friends.
3). Plan for nursing breaks. Sometimes, babies take longer to finish nursing than it takes to get through security on a holiday weekend. So put it on the schedule.
4). Learn to nurse in a baby carrier or wrap. When you inevitably forget to pre-schedule sit-down nursing breaks, you’ll need to be able to nurse on-the-go. You can even skip the X-ray during security and opt for a pat-down without needing to remove your baby from the wrap/carrier.
5). Know your airline’s policy about traveling with expressed milk. If you’re bringing expressed milk with you, read the official TSA policy regarding transport of breast milk and print it out to show any security agents who want to hold you up.The statement advises that you keep breast milk separate from other liquids and aerosols.
“Formula, breast milk and juice in excess of 3.4 ounces or accessories required to transport the liquid on a flight must be declared to the TSA officer at the beginning of the screening process. If a traveler does not want formula, breast milk and juice to be X-rayed or opened, the traveler must inform the officer before screening begins.”
6). Nurse upon take-off and landing to keep baby’s ears from pressurizing painfully. I don’t care what the flight attendant said… it’s allowed.
7). Window Crayons. The flight attendants won’t be pleased with the artwork that your child decorates so enthusiastically upon, um, everything. Just don’t tell them it’s not permanent. The reaction will be worth it, promise.
Shopping for gifts this Black Friday? Assuming you’re the kind of mom who weakens at the “Make your family feel LOVED with THIS new item” advertising by every toy manufacturer, greeting card company, and pumpkin spice flavor factory, I’m sure you’ll be shopping aplenty for your own brood and beyond.
First, always shop with a friend — if only for safety reasons. Nothing says “Easily Overtaken” like an exhausted mom in a mall parking lot fishing for her misplaced keys in the front seat, with a baby half-strapped into a car seat in the back, the radio blasting Looney Tunes (to match her mood, of course), and a trail of Cheerio dust leading right to her.
Babywearing may help you move more quickly through stores and give your baby a perfect opportunity to rest. Consider bringing a stroller as well — this way you can use it as a shopping cart of sorts and save your arms the extra burden of new purchases. After all, you’re a mom, not Santa’s sleigh.
Take breaks. Seriously, set an alarm on your phone to go off every hour so you can check in with your baby.
You know what? Screw the mall! Shop online like the rest of the world. This year, shipping and handling fees are worth the price of your sanity.
Make sure baby gets plenty of quiet time with you away from the stimulation of Thanksgiving Day activities.
If a busy holiday week is super-stressful for a typical adult, one wonders how an emotionally-spongy baby fares with the swirling, frazzled aura that seems to permeate every day in the calendar month of November. They must think we’re preparing for World War III with the frantic food-hoarding, frequent harried calls to family members making travel plans, and constant attempts at navigating through thick shopping crowds.
I can’t imagine the holiday season is quite the jolliest time of year for any baby.
Unless… You make sure to create a zone wherein only you and baby exist, even if only for a bit, and remind your baby that this is “normal life,” and the crazy holidays are but a phase.
NURSING ON DEMAND
Don’t get caught up in the hustle and bustle of greeting long-lost family members, checking in with friends, and helping the host and hostess with tasks (because you’re oh-so-polite). Your baby comes first, and whoever doesn’t respect that could use a lesson in oh-so-politeness themselves.
Don’t forget to nurse your baby at every four hours, and offer to do so even sooner. Aunt Melba might inform you that babies only need to eat every four hours, but she’s just full of shit (and too much turkey by now), remember? You are the supply, and your baby has a demand. It doesn’t slow down for the holidays.
Your baby is most thankful for YOU, mama, and the life and comfort and security that you provide with your milk-making body. Cover up, don’t cover up, retreat to another room or the car, take up half the dinner table seating with an extravagant display of laid-back nursing — whatever you need to do to take care of your baby, that’s how you spend this holiday. Be an example of unconditional love for everyone around you (or anyone who wonders where you disappeared to).
If that’s not true holiday spirit, I don’t know what is.