Many new parents feel anxious about how they are going to juggle breastfeeding and social obligations during seasons of holiday celebrations.
The first question to consider is, "should I or should I not attend this event?" It can be difficult to say no to invitations from family and friends but if attending is going to cause you and your baby undue stress, then you might want to consider skipping this year and see how you feel about going next year. Or you may want to prioritize some gatherings over others and only attend the ones that are most important to you.
Some events can be more stressful than others. Family events often welcome babies as special guests. Sometimes this can mean that family members expect to pass the baby around from one person to another. If you are comfortable with this you can try to nurse your baby before you leave your house or as soon as you arrive at your destination to ensure that your baby is well fed while with your family members. It can be helpful to set a reminder on your phone to check on your baby after a set period of time so that you can see if your baby wants to nurse. If you are not comfortable with this, you can try wearing your baby in a sling or soft baby carrier. People are often less likely to ask to hold a baby who is tucked snuggly in a sling with a parent.
Some mothers are concerned about where to breastfeed at a party. Depending on your family and your own comfort level you may want to plan ahead for a quiet place to nurse your baby away from the main action. Or you may prefer to find a spot in the middle of the room where you can breastfeed while continuing to enjoy the party. Although it works for some, many parents find that their babies do not like having their heads covered by a blanket when nursing. These babies quickly yank coverings off and toss them on the floor. These coverings also often draw more attention to what you are doing. A shawl or loose cardigan style sweater or wrap can provide an additional feeling of privacy. Wearing clothing that makes access to the breast easy will save time and fussing, on your part and your baby's. You might find that your family members don’t even notice when your baby starts to feed right in front of them!
If you would like to attend a fancy, more formal event and your baby is tiny then match your outfit to your baby carrier and go. You will have the cutest accessory in the crowd! If your baby is older, perhaps having a babysitter come with you to look after your little one in a nearby lobby or hotel room would provide a balance between social needs and your baby's needs.
Talk with your partner and the other important people involved in the event about meeting the needs of your baby and how that can happen around the particular requirements of the event. As a group you may come up with a plan that you hadn't considered. Whatever you decide to do, either to go or stay home, you can feel confident that you have made the best decision for your and your baby, knowing that next year, things will be different.
If you have any questions about drinking alcohol while breastfeeding, please see the LLLC article Alcohol and Breastfeeding for more information.
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Updated June 2022