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Holiday Weaning

Santa Nursling from EnchantedDandelions

photo courtesy of EnchantedDandelions

A phenomenon has been observed by many breastfeeding supporters… holiday weaning.  The holidays are a time full of events, obligations, cooking, cleaning, visiting, shopping, etc.  What about mothering?  It is so easy for mothers, even brand new mothers, to get caught up in obligations and to-do lists.  Pressure from themselves and family end up ensuring that they aren’t nursing often enough and encourage them to supplement with a bottle.

How do we let this happen?  There are many common reasons.

  1. Offering bottles while tending to to-do lists (shopping, cleaning, cooking, etc)
  2. Offering bottles while with family so that they can feed the baby, hold the baby
  3. Offering bottles while with family so that mother doesn’t have to nurse in front of family
  4. Delaying feedings while busy, etc
  5. Offering bottles so that mother can drink alcohol
  6. Mother not getting adequate rest and fluids
  7. Older children can become distracted and not request to nurse as often

New mothers, at least those that feel they can function, often feel driven to take on just as much as they had previously and the holidays make this desire more pronounced for some.  However, if there has ever been a time to sit back and let everyone else do the work, now is the time!  Did you know that just offering one bottle can affect your supply if you are not also pumping when that bottle is being offered?  Many La Leche League leaders have observed that the new mothers in their monthly meetings often dismiss the idea of “holiday weaning” when it is discussed.  Then, after the holidays, those same women often return and share their stories of finding themselves on the brink of sabotaging their nursing relationship, all without meaning too!

image provided by @crunchynurse

So, how can you avoid this accidental weaning or even just a dip in supply?  It is simple, put mothering first this holiday season.  Offer your baby the breast often, sit and relax as much as you can.  If you are going to be around family that doesn’t support breastfeeding, prepare yourself mentally.  Enlist your spouse to be a barrier.  Excuse yourself and nurse in a separate room if you are more comfortable.  Don’t be afraid to take your baby back if he or she is being held by others.  Remember, your baby needs to eat and you are one with the food.  Babies can also easily become overstimulated during the holidays, so the break to nurse will be good for them for that reason too.

We all love our families, right?  But that doesn’t mean that they are perfect and never offer uninvited advice on your parenting!  Have a code worked out with your spouse that tells them if you are tired, or uncomfortable.  That way they can help excuse you without making a scene.  Family gathering can be difficult anyways, but add to that a new mother and a new baby, you have a perfect opportunity for unwanted advice or hurtful comments.

So, before you sign up to make that pie… and potatoes… and green beans… oh and the turkey (or even host the whole darn thing!) think about it first… what would you like your holiday to look like?  Stress and time away from your precious baby?  Or would you rather be snuggled up next to a fire or a tree and nursing your little one?  There will be many more holidays to come, maybe these first few years can be about you being a new mother and less about you being a hostess.

La Leche League makes these recommendations to help you avoid inadvertently weaning your baby during special occasions:

  • Let friends and family members know that you cherish your breastfeeding relationship. Don’t present it as a problem. For example, when aunts or grandmothers want to help, give them a task—not the baby.
  • When family members ask to feed the baby, tell them, “Thank you, but I’m breastfeeding,” and smile.
  • Use a sling or other carrier to keep baby close to nurse.
  • Work around nap times and other times when baby is sleeping.
  • Avoid long car and plane trips if possible. If it’s unavoidable, make sure to take plenty of time for nursing breaks.
  • Choose clothing that provides easy access to the breast for the little nursling.
  • Shop for gifts online or from catalogues. Keep “real life” shopping trips short or take plenty of breaks to breastfeed.

(This list is from How to Avert Nursing Strikes during Special Occasions)

I hope that anyone reading this will keep it in mind during their own holidays, making sure they aren’t falling victim themselves and also support their family and friends so that they do not either.  After all, breastfeeding truly is the BEST gift you can give your little one!

Also, if you take any great holiday nursing pictures, let me know!  I would  love to feature them on the Breastfeeding Imagery page of this site!!


  1. November 24, 2009 at 12:13 PM

    What a cool post! I hadn’t even thought about this, but I can totally see how this could happen. When I am around family, I typically nurse almost as often as I do at home, but not quite as much. Thursday will be our first MAJOR holiday, so we’ll see how it goes. I only make 1-2 dishes to bring and they are super easy, but I still get super stressed about it, so I will try to relax this year in hopes to avoid accidental holiday weaning!

    Thanks for this post!

    • November 24, 2009 at 10:08 PM

      Glad it was helpful! So many women walk away from holidays wondering why their baby is fussy at the breast and can’t figure it out. They just so busy without realizing it! Enjoy your first major holiday!!! And good for you taking it a bit easier!!!

  2. Jen
    November 24, 2009 at 8:11 PM

    This is so interesting! I hadn’t realized the correlation either, though I can see now why there is one. My youngest is 14 months, and after being away from her all weekend I needed to make a decision about whether or not to wean her upon my return. I decided to let her take the lead. And as soon as she saw me, it was clear she wanted to nurse. And so, we go on. She is my last baby, and I am happy to continue with this special bonding time. I know it won’t be much longer. And I’m happier still to know that maybe she’s getting a little something extra from me. (And, I only have one pie to make for Thanksgiving. EASY!)

    • November 24, 2009 at 10:11 PM

      I am not surprised at all that she wants to keep going! It is so wonderful for them. That is great that you are so supportive of her needs to continue!! And YIPPEE for easy holiday dinners!! I only have to make an appetizer and sweet potatoes. WOOHOO!

  3. Michelle
    November 30, 2009 at 11:37 AM

    saw your Not-me-Monday post thru MckMama, thought I’d hop on over…

    Just wanted to add that when I was nursing I actually looked forward to the time that I could step a way from the hosting and holiday festivities to nurse my little ones. A little haven of peace for us both! 🙂

    Mine aren’t nursing anymore, so I’ll have to come up with some other excuse to disappear from the merry-making from time to time; time to tuck the little ones in and hear their prayers? sing to them? sleep in their room to keep them company? 🙂

  1. November 24, 2009 at 12:18 PM
  2. November 30, 2009 at 1:02 AM

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