Beat The Heat & Breastfeeding
On more than one occasion I remember sitting down to nurse my babies during a heat wave and found the calm moment to just be still a very welcome one indeed, especially if I remembered to have a cool drink near by and was lucky enough to find breezy shade or even better, air-conditioning.
The worst feeling, when you’re already tired from motherhood, is to feel slippery and slimy and dripping with sweat as you go to nurse your baby. These common sense ideas will probably make you go, “oh, of course” but believe me – as a new mother, I needed someone to tell me exactly how to brush my teeth, my brain was in such a perpetual fog.
The problem with very hot days is that we tend to want to stay in our on air-conditioned space. But that can be isolating to a new mom. We encourage you to get out in the beauty of the day and enjoy the sunshine at least for a little bit if you can. Getting out into the world is a huge part of healing and growing strong after childbirth. And as long as you are prepared for the heat, you can sail through the hot months without issue.
One: Despite what relatives and well meaning friends may suggest, water is not necessary for a breastfed baby, especially in the first 6 months. Breastmilk is over 80% water. Offering water will fill a baby tummy with empty calories at a time where every calorie is critical. That small bottle/cup of water may actually backfire, as baby may show less signs in being interested in breastfeeding come the next feeding due to a false sense of “full” from the water.
The best way to nurse a summer baby is to continue with on demand feedings. If it is a true heat wave, you can always offer more, and your breasts will adjust to the supply and demand economics. That’s the magic of breastmilk and feeding on demand – it adjusts to your baby’s needs!
COOL TIP: if you’re both very sweaty when sitting down to nurse, and skin to skin seems like it’s going to be a hot mess, grab a gauze (aden + anais stle) blanket. Putting a light natural fiber blanket between you and baby will absorb sweat, and keep you from sticking to one another. For sweaty heads resting on your arm – the same, use a light washcloth or folded blanket to absorb the sweat and keep baby from slip-sliding during your hold.
Two: Some, but not all, babies do become irritable in the heat. This does not mean your milk supply isn’t meeting their needs. Like any older child or adult, they are just looking for a way to chill out … so read your baby’s cues and take measures to help them through the heat. Dress them in light colors & natural fibers, keep them in the shade and air conditioning, dress in layers and have a light blanket handy for when you do enter a cool air-conditioned place. Use a damp, cool washcloth to gently wipe & soothe away the sweat when necessary. And be mindful of chubby neck, leg and arm rolls that may get rashy due to extra sweat.
Three: Know your neighborhood! What air-conditioned coffee shops, stores, libraries, restaurants, new mommy classes welcome a mom to take a break from the heat? Are you comfortable nursing in public? If not, come to a mommy group meeting with us and we’ll get you ready for summer nursing in public. Also, remember the hours when the sun beats down the hottest – noon to 3pm. This is especially good if you’re looking to get out for exercise or with an older sibling. Stick to morning hours or late afternoon.
Four: What is your body telling you? Look to breastfeeding as not only be a time for your sweaty summer baby to nourish, but as a reminder to you to cool down too. Don’t over do it in the heat. Breastfeeding will burn on average about 200 – 500 calories a day. You’re busy enough trying to keep nourished, balanced and even chase a toddler or two … without throwing in the stresses of a heat wave! Take it easy in the summer heat.
COOL TIP: Always carry a small, pretty umbrella in your diaper bag that you can take out and use as a parasol if the sun is really driving down on you. And of course, it’ll come in hand if there’s a sudden summer rainstorm.
Five: Have available in abundance hydrating, water filled foods & drink in your kitchen. “Water foods” help with postpartum water retention and edema, so if you just had your baby, these are great for those still swollen feet and fingers …
grapes (frozen grapes are a great, refreshing treat!)
fresh dandelion greens
corn on the cob (warm or cold)
asparagus salad (cold)
cold soups – gazpacho, cucumber
herbal iced teas
water with chunks of melon, berries, lemon, lime, orange, grapefruit and cucumber cut up in it
Six: If you don’t know where to go and what to do with yourself on a hot day, find a good local breastfeeding group. La Leche League, Breastfeeding USA and MeetUp all likely have local groups monthly, if not weekly, near you. We at MommaArts have several great breastfeeding group options throughout the month. Keep an eye on our Facebook page for updates, times and details.
COOL TIP: Make frozen maxi pads and bandannas . If you’re newly postpartum, you’re probably not going out much. But a great cooling and soothing tip is to take maxi pads that bring relief where you want and need it more. Take some pads (remove from individual wrapping), put them in a gallon zip lock, pour witch hazel over them, add a soothing essential oil like lavender or even aloe vera, and toss in freezer. Instant soothing pads for your first days postpartum. Or, if you’re ready to really go out for strolls and walks – do the same with a few colorful, fun bandannas, rolling them a bit like a classic neckerchief, wet with water and essential oils, toss them in the freezer and use when you need.
Soon enough, the cool breeze of summer’s end will be here and you’ll be looking for Halloween costumes for your little one … so hang in there, stay cool & healthy, and nurse your baby with love and frequency!
Deirdre & Kim