The holiday season brings all of our favorite things. Time with loved ones, old and new traditions, joy, and delicious food. With all of those wonderful things, it can also bring stress and fatigue. Lactation consultants often see a rise in the occurrence of plugged ducts and mastitis during the holiday season. A plugged duct is a plug of milk that sits in the milk duct, causing new milk to “back up.” Mastitis is inflammation of the breast tissue, which may or may not involve an infection. Both new and experienced mothers are especially vulnerable during this time due to changes in routine and schedules, stress, and sleep disruption.
New babies don’t stop mothers from simply trying to do it all. Holidays mean decorating, shopping, and cooking. The stress from trying to accomplish all of those things can put moms at risk for engorgement, plugged ducts and sometimes mastitis. This season with an infant sometimes leads to stretching out feedings just to hit up one more store, or cook one more dish, or wrap one more gift, therefore causing milk to not be removed from the breast often enough. Slow down mamas - you definitely do not have to do this all by yourself. A new baby is the perfect reason to delegate tasks to everyone who enjoys your holiday traditions.
Another risk for plugged ducts is the inevitable change in routine due to family gatherings or travel. Traveling with an infant can be challenging and finding a good place to feed or pump can be difficult. While road tripping, plan ahead for frequent stops for changing, feeding, pumping, and/or stretching. Arrive at the airport earlier than you normally would so you have time to get settled at the gate for a breather. Many major airports in the US offer mother’s or lactation spaces. Commercial airports are required to provide lactation rooms at each passenger terminal building of the airport, thanks to the passage of the Friendly Airports for Mothers Act of 2017.
New babies are a wonderful excitement and love to be adored by family and friends. However, this can quickly turn into a game of “pass the baby.” Infants being passed around may result in prolonged time in between feedings or mom missing early hunger cues. Infrequent expression of breast milk can cause uncomfortable full breasts and the risk of plugged ducts.
Some moms may feel hesitant to nurse in front of family members or friends. This can lead to further delays in infant feedings or pumping sessions. Make a plan and decide what works best for you and your baby. Many moms find comfort (and relief!) excusing themselves to nurse or pump in a quiet room, away from family or guests.
It’s also ok to say no! To traveling, hosting, cooking, shopping – it all! You and baby are your priority! Put your feet up, rest, and nurse/pump frequently.
Enjoy this special season with your new addition and take care of yourself.