It’s the holiday season – and that means parties, dinners, formal functions. Unfortunately, many of these are not very baby-friendly.
What’s a breastfeeding mama to do? Many people will tell the mother: just pump and leave a bottle of your milk for the babysitter to give the baby. But the reality is, many mothers find it hard to pump milk, and not all babies will take a bottle of expressed milk. Even if the baby would take the milk, not all mothers want to leave their babies. Many breastfeeding babies like to sleep close to their mothers and some like to nurse to sleep. It can be stressful for a breastfeeding mother to navigate holiday invitations that don’t include baby.
Mothers can be made to feel guilty for not attending a function. We live in a culture that tells mothers their babies are too dependent instead of celebrating the mother/baby relationship and understanding the needs of breastfeeding babies. Nursing to sleep, and/or waking up during the night for milk and comfort, is seen as problematic.
It’s not even December yet, and I am receiving multiple phone calls and emails from mothers who are worried about baby not taking a bottle, about older babies who nurse to sleep, about parties that do not include babies. Mothers are told that they really should leave their babies and they are criticized when they don’t.
This happens each year. And each year I want to say:
There will ALWAYS be holiday parties and functions. But your baby is small for such a short time.
Right now, you and your baby are a dyad. For this short period of mothering, your baby needs you. Even older babies, and sometimes toddlers, can be upset without the comfort of their mama close by. This isn’t wrong. It actually means everything is right. Your little one is attached in a positive way.
Go ahead and skip the party. There will be more; years and years and years of parties. Your baby will grow into a young child who waves good-bye when you leave, sleeps contentedly while you are gone and looks forward to playing with the babysitter. But this holiday season, your baby needs your milk, your arms, your presence.
Finally, I want to say thank you to the friends, family, bosses and acquaintances who understand this. Thank you that a baby tucked into a baby carrier is a welcome addition at your holiday gathering. Thank you for finding ways to get-together with a breastfeeding mother that do not cause her to have to choose between her baby and you.
What a wonderful gift to give a breastfeeding mother and baby this holiday season – your acceptance and most importantly, your understanding.