You have a beautiful new baby and the holiday season is a time to share your joy with family and friends. The holidays are a special time of year but they can also be a source of stress – the pressures as a breastfeeding mom during the holidays will be different depending on how many kids you have and their ages, and your overall travel plans and family visits.

If you have just one child who’s still breastfeeding, then they are too young to even understand what the “holidays” are – in a way, this takes the pressure off of you as the mother, because the child has no expectations and will be happy with whatever you do (or don’t do). Sure you can put a little Santa hat or reindeer antlers on the baby, but be focused yourself on just relaxing and having fun! Next year will be very different!

If you have 2 kids or more, especially if the older children are of the age where they’re starting to ask for expensive toys and elaborate celebrations, try to prioritize what is important in life – they want your presence and not presents. Speaking as a mother of older kids, I can still remember the biggest thrill for a toddler being the box the gift came in rather than the toy inside.

Many breastfeeding moms find that they enjoy the holidays because after months of being highly focused on caring for an infant, and spending hours in yoga pants and baggy (or no) tops, it’s time for a change. Perhaps you have not had the time or energy to “pamper yourself” as much as you would like and so holidays are a time to dress up a bit and to sparkle and look glamorous. Getting together with family and friends a great excuse to wear pretty clothes, and add a little jewelry and makeup that shines. So go for it – even if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding, you can still celebrate and enjoy looking and feeing great!

Here are a few tips for breastfeeding moms who want to have fun and look great during the holiday season:

Dressing Up and Looking Glamorous

Today there are a lot of great breastfeeding accessories and fashion items that make it easier for breastfeeding moms to dress up and feel beautiful during the holidays, while still feeling comfortable and avoiding breastmilk leaks. For example, Bravado Designs (owned by Medela) offers a variety of beautiful nursing tank tops and nursing bras – including stylish, sexy nursing bra designs for special occasions. With a good assortment of nursing bras, you can feel sexy for the holidays while still feeding your baby whenever you need to.

Also, before you leave town for the holidays, make sure you stock up on nursing bra pads to help prevent nipple leaks and stay dry and comfortable wherever you go. Read more in our article about essential breastfeeding accessories.

The holidays can be hard for new moms, because you might still be adapting to your “post-baby” body and you might feel self-conscious, especially if you’ll be attending parties with other women who haven’t had babies and are looking as slender and stylish as ever. Start with a mental attitude that as a mother, you are beautiful – all your perceived negative points are totally non-existent to anyone but yourself.

Practice positive self-talk when you start to feel insecure – reassure yourself like you would reassure a friend. Yes, your breasts are a little bigger if you are breastfeeding, but there are great tops with buttons or V-neck wraps that are perfect for breastfeeding. Perhaps purchase a lightweight pashmina or shawl – they come in very handy for those moments when your baby should not have to wait.

Canadian Living has some great ideas for clothes for breastfeeding moms, and Thyme Maternity has stylish outfits for pregnant women. Consider shopping at a consignment shop, where you can get big discounts on nearly-new maternity wear and breastfeeding-friendly fashions – for example, Play It Again Kids is a consignment store in Nelson, British Columbia that offers discounts on clothes for pregnant women and breastfeeding moms.

The most important thing is to feel good about how you look, while still having comfortable and versatile outfits that make it easy for breastfeeding. Buy one nice top and skirt for special occasions during the holidays. Find something that makes you feel pretty, and part of the human race again. A Christmas party may be the first time you have gotten out of the house for a while, so take advantage of the opportunity to have fun, smile and shine!

Handling Criticism

With a few drinks and a lot of holiday stress, people can sometimes be a little tactless – especially when it comes to breastfeeding. As we have discussed before there is hardly a topic that generates more controversy than breastfeeding, so be prepared to hear some ill-considered remarks.

These comments might come from your immediate family who you don’t see every day. Everyone has great well-meaning advice, but you don’t have to take it to heart. You might even want to plan ahead and think about how you might handle these typical questions.

If anyone asks why you are breastfeeding, keep it scientific and say “Health Canada recommends exclusive breastfeeding for six months and a minimum of two years.”

Another strategy is to divert the conversation with another question. If someone asks, “Are you STILL breastfeeding your child?” You could cheerfully respond, “Yes, I’ve been breastfeeding now for 18 months. By the way, how was your trip to Paris?” Say it quickly without a gap – change the subject.

If people are somehow uncomfortable with you breastfeeding in public spaces or in the family room during holiday gatherings, it might be best to avoid conflict and just not even talk about it. If you need to feed the baby, try to find a private area – and not in places where you are likely to raise attention. During the holidays the best gift you can give yourself is to just relax.

Also use humour. If someone asks you how long you are planning to breastfeed your daughter, you can always use the answer: “Oh, probably until she leaves for university, but we’ll see!”

Having a Drink

Many moms like the idea of having a social drink over the holidays, and having wine or champagne or alcohol-infused egg nog is part of many traditional holiday celebrations. It’s perfectly acceptable to decline to drink – just say “I’m breastfeeding” if any explanation is required – but if you would like to drink a bit of alcohol while breastfeeding, be prepared for some advance planning, and do your health research to avoid any ill effects for your baby.

The College of Family Physicians of Canada says that nursing mothers who choose to drink alcohol while breastfeeding should carefully plan a schedule by storing milk before drinking and waiting for complete elimination of alcohol from their breastmilk after drinking. Health Canada suggests waiting 2-4 hours after drinking, and if you pump during that 4-hour period of time, do not use that milk. After 4 hours it is generally ok to breastfeed and pump breastmilk – if the alcohol is out of your system, it’s also out of your breastmilk; alcohol does not get “trapped” in your breastmilk.

Whatever you do this holiday season, be sure to treat yourself and enjoy the experience with your family and friends. Remember what the holiday season is all about: love, family and treasuring the miracle of life.

What are your thoughts? Where are your favourite shops for buying nursing bras or fashionable clothes for breastfeeding moms? Please share in the comments below, or join in the conversation on the Medela Canada Facebook page.

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