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Nursing Through the Holidays? What You Should Know

Have you ever wondered whether Mrs. Claus used a Boppy or My Brest Friend? Does your pump seem to say, "Han-OO-kah. Han-OO-kah"? Do you look at Santa's ruddy cheeks and think, "I bet those would clear right up with a squirt of breast milk"? If so, congratulations: You're a nursing mom in the holiday spirit!

Even if you don't have that much boob on the brain, chances are you have at least one holiday-centric breastfeeding question—logistical concerns like, "Can I bring more than three ounces of pumped milk through airport security when traveling to my in-laws' for Christmas?" Or more emotionally-charged questions like, "Is it weird if I nurse in front of my uncle?"

I spoke with Katrina Pavlik, M.Ed., a certified lactation specialist and founder of Breastfeed, Chicago!, a mom-powered organization established to help normalize and support mothers in breastfeeding. Read on for her feedback, peppered with input from a second-time mom currently nursing her 18-month-old (me!)

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How can I nurse in front of my uncles and male relatives?

Never be afraid to feed your baby, and remember that you have options.

Pavlik: It took to me having my second baby before I was really comfortable talking about breastfeeding and doing it in public. And talking to lots of moms over the years has taught me there isn't one right answer for everyone. A lot depends on your family: Is your family the kind of family that is going to question everything you do and stress you out more, or are they the kind of family that might get a little uncomfortable but get over it eventually? If you can achieve your main goals of feeding your kiddo and participating in family gatherings the way that makes YOU comfortable, you've won. Of course we really encourage moms to breastfeed in public as much as they can because that's what's going to normalize breastfeeding for the rest of us, but with families, that normalization sometimes takes a loooong time and lots of family gatherings for everyone to get over their hang-ups and support you.

Me: Never be afraid to feed your baby, and remember that you have options. You don't need to unsnap your nursing tank two feet away from your grandpa (but you certainly can if you feel comfortable doing so; I have); you can use a nursing cover or drape a light scarf over yourself and the baby if s/he will let you, you can turn your back toward relatives or just use it as an opportunity to snag some free time and go relax in a bedroom as you feed your babe.

I love eggnog! Can I still drink it and nurse?

Me: According to KellyMom.com, in general, if you are sober enough to drive, you are sober enough to breastfeed. Less than 2 percent of any alcohol consumed by you makes its way into your milk. Pumping and dumping is now generally recognized as unnecessary—it doesn't speed the elimination of alcohol from the milk. Some women notice that alcohol impacts their let-down; wine and booze are also dehydrating, which isn't helpful in terms of milk supply.

Pavlik: Your blood alcohol content is a good indicator of when you can nurse. Levels of alcohol in milk peak at approximately 30 to 60 minutes following ingestion, then decline rapidly if no more is ingested. When alcohol is out of your bloodstream, it's out of your milk. It is worth noting, though, that it is not safe to bedshare if you or anyone else in bed with you and your baby have been drinking.

"You're still nursing?"
"Yes. What have your breasts been up to lately?"

My mother in law/grandma/crazy Aunt Mildred keeps trying to sneak my baby food/encourage me to use formula when she knows my baby is exclusively breastfed. She's the worst at the holidays. What can I do?

Pavlik: Snarky me says to make a onesie for the baby that says, 'Dear Mildred, Please don't mess up my gut by giving me crap food. (The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends that babies be fed nothing but breast milk for the first six months (formula is an acceptable alternative); introducing food earlier than that potentially leading to gastroenteritis and diarrhea, since infants that young haven't yet developed the necessary gut bacteria needed to safely process solid food.) The nicer me says to talk to her about all the wonderful things you'd like her to do, like knit a scarf, give you advice on the best donut on the Southside, or share a funny story from her childhood—show her how important she is for those reasons so she might back off of the other stuff. If all else fails, put the rest of your family on 'Aunt Mildred Watch' and never leave her alone with Baby!

Can I travel with pumped milk?

Me: Absolutely. Per TSA guidelines, breast milk (as well as formula and even juice) in quantities greater than 3.4 oz/100 ml can be carried on and do need to not fit within a quart-sized bag. Ice packs/freezer packs are also allowed. When I've traveled with pumped milk in the past, I've always let the TSA officer know as I approach the screening area, just to give him or her a heads up.

Any packing tips for nursing traveling moms?

Me: Here's a quick packing checklist: Nursing bras/tanks, breast pads, milk bags, pump and parts (if you need it.) You can probably skip the bulky nursing pillow and just use whatever pillow you can find at your destination, although My Brest Friend does make an inflatable model. If you use bottles, bring some quick clean bottle wipes, as airplane tap water is not considered all that safe for consumption and thus, you don't want it on your baby's drinking accessories.

Staying in a hotel? Call ahead and request a room with a mini fridge to store milk. Some hotels charge for this but if you explain that you need it for a medical reason (i.e. nursing), they often will waive the fee.

And don't forget water and snacks, especially on a long plane ride. Airplane air can be very stale and dry, and nursing mamas need to stay hydrated to maintain supply.

What should I say when, at my family's annual holiday party, someone inevitable asks, "You're still nursing?"

Me: I polled the women on the Breastfeed, Chicago! Facebook page. Here are some of the gems the came up with in terms of responses:

"Yes. Want some bean dip?"

‪"Yep! How 'bout them Packers?"

"Yes, isn't it great? How have you been? Great party, right?"

"Yep." Full stop.

"Yes. What have your breasts been up to lately?"

"I'm not STILL nursing. I'm just nursing. Don't worry. They will be weaned by their first prom." And then just smile.

"Yes, why? Are you thirsty?"

"No, no, this is a hologram to make people like you uncomfortable."

"My best comment was to an aunt: 'Yes, still nursing! How's Bob? Is he still living at home with you?'" (Bob is her 30-year-old son who lives in her basement.)

‪(really excitedly) "I sure am!"

"Yep! And we love every minute of it!"

‪RELATED: Mom Recreates the Sweetest Breastfeeding Photo

I just got invited to an ugly sweater holiday party. Does anyone make a breastfeeding-friendly ugly sweater?

Me: Indeed, they do! This hideous reindeer sweater lets your breast take center stage with a specially knitted hole; just stick a red tinsel nose on your nipple, pop two googly eyes above it and you are sure to win the trophy.

Photograph by: Facebook

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