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How to Avert Nursing Strikes during Special Occasions

Lisa Cortez Barry
Gardena CA USA
From: LEAVEN, Vol. 40 No. 3, June-July 2004, p. 56.

What is holiday weaning? Holiday weaning is when a baby weans due to the distraction and celebration of a holiday or other special event. There may be visitors from out of town or maybe you and your family are on vacation. Either way, there’s plenty of people, attention, and distraction to keep mother and baby apart. Next thing you know, baby hasn’t breastfed all day or maybe even all weekend.

Does holiday weaning have to happen during a holiday? No. Holiday weaning can happen on vacation, around birthdays or other special events, and even when you’re moving. If a mother travels for business or grandma visits, baby’s routine may get disturbed, and weaning may happen. Any time baby and mother are busy and distracted, holiday weaning may occur.

Why lead a meeting about holiday weaning? Well, because holiday weaning is a chameleon that can be very sneaky. Many mothers have never even heard of holiday weaning and don’t know that it can happen in the blink of an eye. Every year when our Group talks about holiday weaning, it’s met with some surprise or skepticism. Mothers are surprised that their breastfeeding relationship could be so fragile that a few days of extra activity could cause weaning. They also might be skeptical that visiting family and friends may interfere with their breastfeeding. Usually, the month after the meeting (and the major holiday), mothers come back saying that they couldn’t believe how important that meeting was for them.

So, how does a Leader approach holiday weaning? First, ask mothers what they think of when they think about the upcoming holiday(s). Talk about traditions and who is traveling. Share special foods or traditions. Then talk about what holiday weaning is and how it can happen. Explain that many first-time mothers with new babies haven’t realized how different holidays can be with a little one. They still want to do all of the same activities they did the previous year. They want to spend a day baking with their mothers and sisters, yet they haven’t planned how to accomplish this with a little one who still needs to nurse every couple of hours. They want to attend parties, ceremonies, and feasts, some of which seem to last a whole month. But they haven’t given thought yet as to the difference in their lives since giving birth. Remember to talk about strategies, too. When a mother plans realistically, holiday weaning need not occur. Try making the following suggestions to mothers:

  • 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.

Sometimes mothers will say that they plan to pump and give a bottle for these events. We remind them that they will need to pump as often as baby feeds to maintain their milk supply. We also add that the extra work of bottle feeding—pumping, processing, storing, and dishwashing—may be just too much when they consider all of the other activities they are doing. Why not breastfeed instead?

When should the topic of holiday weaning be addressed? Holiday weaning can be the topic for Meeting Number 4 or an Enrichment Meeting. Make sure that the discussion will be around the time of a major holiday. Early fall or spring can work well. This meeting is appropriate for mothers of infants, mothers of toddlers, and pregnant women. New mothers get help for planning their upcoming events, such as how to incorporate breastfeeding into their busy schedule. Mothers of toddlers who want to continue breastfeeding are given strategies to help them do so. Pregnant women are given a glimpse of what they need to think about in terms of limit setting with their families and themselves.

Lisa Cortez Barry co-leads a meeting on holiday weaning every year with co-Leaders, Cathy Boeker and Talitha Sherman, in Torrance, California, USA and with co-Leader Wendy Whalen in Long Beach, California, USA. Lisa lives in Gardena, California, USA with her husband, Glenn, and their three children Kyle Chase (10), Cheyenne Leigh (7), and Leila Lou (3). She has been a Leader for eight years. Brandel Falk is the Contributing Editor for this column.

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