Breastfeeding is the most natural thing in the world, and in the Winter months and cooler days, there is no more content feeling than snuggling up for that bedtime feed, your breastfeeding baby nuzzling into your dressing gown as you sit in a cozy nursing chair rocking them to sleep. But what happens when you turn up the heat?
Breastfeeding during a heatwave in the Summer months or when there is an unexpected period of hot days and nights can be incredibly tough, with a small portable hot water bottle, quite literally, stuck to your chest.
Whilst I can’t guarantee the experience of breastfeeding in a heatwave will be pleasant, here are some hints and tips from personal experience on how to help some of the challenges of breastfeeding when its hot.
- Increase your fluids – This one may sound really obvious, but make sure you drink enough water. When it is really hot you may find that your baby nurses more often than normal to appease their thirst, but so must you in order to avoid dehydration. Breastfeeding already consumes up to 500 calories a day, but retaining an adequate amount of fluids is really important when it’s hot. Finding time to get yourself a drink with a newborn can be tricky, so fill a flask with ice cold water and take it out and about with you, or when you’re at home get a large jug in the fridge which you can pour a fresh drink from whenever you get a moment. Alternatively, make your own fruity ice pops to provide a dash of vitamin C at the same time your refreshing drink!
- Scrape your hair back – If you have long hair, get your hair off your neck and away from your face, as this can instantly help you feel cooler and less sticky. When it’s really hot you may want to consider scraping it back straight from the shower and rocking the “messy hair don’t care” bun style for a while! Trust me when I say that in a heatwave, no ones hair is going to be looking pristine!
- Find the shady spots – if you do have to go out and need to breastfeed your baby during the day, try and stay out of direct sunlight and seek shady spots under the shelter of a tree. Not only will it be cooler for you to nurse whilst in the shade, but you won’t have to worry about the sun glaring in your baby’s eyes or the heat of the sun’s direct rays.
- Keep the house cool – This may go against the grain here, but if you aren’t lucky enough to have air conditioning at home, keep your windows and doors shut during the day. Whilst you may be desperate to “let some air in”, your house will be cooler if you wait till the end of the day when the temperature drops and then throw them all open then. Leaving them open whilst it’s at the peak of temperature simply allows warm air in, which can leave the upstairs of your house in particular feeling like a sauna when you finally head upstairs to bed.
- Cool cotton / muslin – In the Summer months it can be hard to regulate the temperature in your baby’s room, so when baby’s bedtime comes, chances are they won’t be wearing a great deal, or even just a nappy. As a result, picking them up to breastfeed and having skin on skin can feel very hot and sticky. Holding a light sheet or muslin between you and your baby can help reduce that sensation, and make it easier to put them back into the cot when they are calm and content. Alternatively, if breastfeeding in a cradle hold becomes too sticky, consider different breastfeeding positions such as feeding lying down. Having less physical contact with your baby can reduce that overwhelming sensation of heat, making it more comfortable for both of you to nurse.
- Take a shower or bath – a luke warm shower or bath before bed can be a great way for you and your baby to cool down before bed. As tempting as it may be for you to have an ice cold shower, this can be counterproductive and actually fool your body into raising your temperature.
- Consider expressing – If you have a breast pump at home, consider expressing a bottle or two so that your partner, family member or friend can help take off the pressure of exclusively breastfeeding. Perhaps Dad can do the bedtime feed whilst you take a shower to cool off?
- Break the routine – Finally, you may need to accept that the normal bedtime routine may go out the window when it’s hot. In the same way that we feel too hot to sleep, babies can often feel the same, and forcing the issue can just leave you both feeling hot and bothered. We found that in the Summer months it was far easier to accept that the girls went to bed a lot later than normal and would often stay outside with them until it was a little cooler before heading up for that bedtime feed.
One things for sure, the Summer months certainly don’t last forever, and you’ll be back in your dressing gown before you know it!