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Holiday parties, out-of-town visitors and more can all disrupt a new mom’s pumping schedule and even lead to breast tissue inflammation
The holidays can be chaotic. As a new mom, you likely have a long list of to-do’s, with events, travel plans and end-of-year deadlines all vying for your attention. For that reason, this season happens to be when IBCLCs see an increase in mastitis, or inflammation of the breast tissue that is sometimes accompanied by an infection. Why? Anything that interrupts both nursing or pumping patterns or decreases the release of breast milk can lead to milk stasis.
Mastitis is most common in the two to three weeks after delivery—when mom and baby are just beginning to get into a routine—but it can occur at any stage in lactation. Inflammation typically comes on quickly and with the following flu-like symptoms: a fever over 101.3, chills, aching and an area of the breast that is painful and warm to the touch.
Ashland Women’s Health resident expert and IBCLC Katie McGee explains how to avoid mastitis and plugged ducts during this hectic holiday season. Read on:
Watch for Feeding Cues
Get ready: Everyone will want to see, hold and interact with your new baby this holiday season. After all, this is a precious time of year with a new baby that is not to be missed. However, you and your little one need each other, so be sure to set some parameters with your visitors before they arrive and limit their visits while you’re still figuring out this nursing thing. This will also help you can a watchful eye on feeding cues and allow you to respond quickly. Waiting too long to nurse or pump can lead to engorgement, and it can be more challenging for a baby to latch to (or even pump to empty) an engorged breast. Skipping a feeding or pumping is a common precursor to complications of lactation.
You have the perfect excuse to be late to a dinner table: Breastfeeding and pumping take time, so don’t fast-forward through a feeding or limit your time together. Skipping, delaying or even rushing a feeding can all lead to lactation complications. When at holiday parties, take all the time you and your baby need to maintain a successful breastfeeding relationship. If you are a pumping mom, bring along your accessories and set up in a space that is comfortable for you. Allow yourself all the time you need to provide for your baby.
Dressing in a bra or tight clothing that fits poorly can contribute to compression of milk ducts. Anything that puts pressure on your ducts—including carrying tight baby carriers or heavy cross-body bags—should be avoided for your breast health. Mammary tissue extends to your armpit, so be sure your breasts are well-supported without being compressed.
Heal Sores Quickly
Open areas or very sore nipples are an entry point for infection. If you are experiencing sore nipples, contact The Lactation Network. We can connect you with an experienced IBCLC and set up an in-home consultation. Figuring out the source of your sore nipples and healing them quickly to avoid further complications is critical to meeting your lactation goals.
Take Time for Yourself
We know the holidays are a magical but stressful time, as you’re running to one party to the next to cooking up your family’s favorite recipe, all with a little one in tow. Stress and fatigue weaken the immune system, setting you up for infection. As a new mom, strive for good enough versus perfection this year. Though you may feel you’re not accomplishing everything that you wanted this time of year, remind yourself that nourishing your baby is a huge job, and you’re kicking butt at it. In the midst of giving to others, give yourself the best gift of all: time to put your feet up and rest when you can.
The team at Ashland Women’s Health and The Lactation Network know that breastfeeding doesn’t always come easy. We can set you up with an insurance-covered, 90-minute consultation with an experienced IBCLC, who will provide you with personalized breastfeeding advice so that you can get on with your festivities. We wish you a very happy, healthy holidays to you and your baby!