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Holiday Parties and Nursing

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With the holiday season among us, many breastfeeding moms struggle with finding the balance between nursing and attending holiday parties. Many find themselves stressed out about whether they should attend, bring the baby to the event, enjoy a cocktail, pump and dump, etc. 

I queried the brightest registered dietitians that are/were also breastfeeding mothers to share their advice on how to handle the holidays. 

“If you can get a sitter--even for a few hours--it's so worth it. If you bring your baby to the party, you'll of course enjoy showing her off to friends, but you'll likely feel guilty having a cocktail and you won't be able to fully relax. Once your breastfeeding schedule is established and you have a routine feeding schedule, I think it's fine for moms to enjoy a glass of wine or a beer--you deserve it! Having a young infant can be very stressful, so take some time with your partner to cut loose a little bit. 

"It's my understanding that pumping and dumping doesn't really work. Alcohol leaves the milk flow as it leaves your blood stream. Your liver can process one standard drink in one hour, so if you have a drink today at 7 p.m., you should be able to nurse the baby by 9 p.m. without a worry.” 

    -Frances Largeman-Roth, RDN, is a mother of two, a nutrition expert, and the author of Feed the Belly and Eating in Color: Delicious, Healthy Recipes for You and Your Family (out in January 2014).

“I try to keep positive about my current role as a nursing mom and how it impacts the other parts of my life. Since I'm committed to nursing, I just figure out how I need to make it work for each unique situation. Sometimes that means bringing the baby along, sometimes it's simply pumping ahead of time, or it might mean pumping in the car before, during, or after an event. A lot of times, I just look at myself and laugh about the funny things I have to do to enjoy my life and keep nursing. I hope to look back at this holiday with fond memories of the funny situations I find myself in (related to nursing or pumping) and more importantly, the special bond with my little guy.” 

    -Jenna Braddock, MSH, RD, CSSD, LD/N is a Northeast Florida based dietitian, a mother of two, and a blogger at  www.FreshFoodPerspectives.com.

“Pick and choose when to enjoy cocktails, beer, or wine and limit alcoholic beverages to two drinks weekly.  At parties, start with a no-calorie, non-alcoholic drink like sparkling water with lemon or lime to cut down on alcohol and to stay hydrated. Have a glass of wine or whatever alcoholic drink you choose with food to slow down alcohol intake. Wait at least two hours after each drink before you breastfeed."

Get enough sleep. It's easy to slack on shut-eye during the holiday season, but inadequate sleep can result in stress, which may decrease milk production.“ 

    -Elizabeth Ward, MS, RDN is a Boston based dietitian, a mother of three, and the author of Expect the Best, Your  Guide to Healthy Eating Before, During, & After Pregnancy

“My preference is to go it alone to a holiday party, even if it's just for a short time. New moms need that time away to enjoy the company of other adults, spend time with their spouse or partner and many times, just feel 'normal' again. As a breastfeeding mom, I typically chose to pump or nurse before the party, enjoy a couple of glasses at the party and then dump the next pumping session. I've found that seeking ways to make nursing fit into your current lifestyle helps keep you nursing longer, rather than setting too many hard and fast rules that you feel bad about breaking.” 

    -Regan Jones, RD is a Georgia-based dietitian, a mother of two, and the Founding Editor at HealthyAperture.com

“If I'm attending an evening adult-only holiday party, I leave the baby at home. She gets a little crazy in the evenings anyway, so it's best for everyone. I nurse her right before I walk out the door and as soon as I get home. If the party is a long one (four or more hours), I pump at the party, which in that case, I divide the pumped milk into one ounce portions to be spread out over future bottles. I never pump and dump. While nursing, I typically stick to drinking one glass of wine with food (no hard alcohol, since one "drink" can actually contain two or three drink equivalents).”

    -Michelle Dudash, RDN, is a mother of two and author of Clean Eating for Busy Families

“By the time the holidays came around, my daughter was just old enough that I didn't have to bring her with me to holiday parties. If I left her home, I would feed or pump right before I left and if I was really crunched for time—which I was a couple times—I actually pumped in the car on the way to a function while my husband drove. When I got back home, I did the same and fed her, or pumped if she was snoozing. I never pumped and dumped. If I drank, I would make a beeline to the bar for a glass of wine as soon as I arrived and said my hellos. When I finished my glass, I would switch to water or club soda for the rest of the evening, which always left me with plenty of time (about half the party) to let the wine pass through my system.” 

    -Brierley Wright, M.S., R.D., is a mother of one and the Nutrition Editor for Eating Well Magazine.

Find out more about these featured experts by clicking on their names to go to their websites!

Holley Grainger, MS, RD is a registered dietitian and nationally recognized lifestyle and nutrition expert. She has instructed millions of home cooks on how to make simple, healthy, family-friendly meals through her online videos and media appearances. She is the mom of toddler, Ellie, and is expecting her second daughter in February. Follow her blog for practical, doable nutrition advice as well as real food tips for real families.


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