Certain life events seem to coincide, such as having a baby and moving house. I recently visited a couple and the 4 day old baby and they were actually moving house the next day. Another big event that happens quite often around the same time that a new baby arrives is a relative or a friend’s big fat and often enormous Irish Wedding. And this time of the year it’s not uncommon for couples with small babies to have 3 or 4 weddings lined up over the summer months. More often than not attending one of these weddings will mean some travel and an overnight stay in a hotel, or even a trip abroad for a few days. So where does the breastfed baby fit in to all of these plans?
I find that the first time mothers with small babies will often make a couple of assumptions when they get a wedding invitation; a) that the baby won’t be welcome at the wedding and b) they will have to leave the baby with someone (usually Granny) and attend without them. They want to know how to go about doing this, so I discuss option 1 with them. And then discuss options 2 and 3. And by the end of the discussion, most will be leaning towards option 3.
OPTION 1: Leave exclusively breastfed baby with Granny and Attend Wedding baby-free
First off this seems like the obvious solution. But let’s look at what’s involved:
- Assuming you will be leaving the baby for 24 hours, you will need to pump enough milk for the caregiver to feed baby while you’re away. This will probably be approximately 850ml for that 24 hour period – slightly more for some babies, slightly less for others. Depending on how much pumping you do and how well your body responds to pumping, it could take you 1-2 weeks to save up this quantity of milk. So that’s quite a bit of pumping. If, for example, you get an average of 90ml per 20 minute pump, that’s 200 minutes of pumping in the run up to the wedding.
- Organise for someone to mind baby. Usually it’s the baby’s Granny. You might need to deliver baby to Granny’s house prior to wedding, and if so factor this into the overall logistics. Consider how baby will respond to be cared for and fed by someone other than their mother. Babies are clever and intuitive and we cannot assume that they will be totally okay with not having access to their mother’s breasts for an extended period of time. Remember that being at the breast is about more than food – it’s comfort and security too.
- Is your baby happy to feed from a bottle? Does the caregiver know how to feed baby milk from a bottle, ie paced feeding? Will they respect your wishes that baby be paced fed?
- You will need to pump regularly while you apart from your baby, to protect your supply, avoid blocked ducts and mastitis, and hopefully reduce the likelihood of your breasts leaking. So you will need to consider what facilities will be available to you to pump. The handiest thing is if the wedding is in the same venue that you are staying in – you can just pump every few hours in your bedroom. But what if the reception is being held in a different venue? You will need to request access to small room somewhere in the building where you will be able to pump. And where will you store the milk? Will you have the use of a fridge? Or will you dump the milk? Will you have access to facilities to wash the pump parts?
- Consider how you are going to cope emotionally with being apart from your small baby. In theory it sounds pretty straight forward – go to wedding, have fun. But when it comes to it, the separation from baby, even if just for a few hours, can be a lot more emotionally challenging that we expected it would be. And that’s because we are really not meant to be apart from our babies for long periods! All of our mothering instincts are working to keep us close to our babies, so that they can be fed and be calm, and all the lovely bonding and breastmilk-making hormones can flow. Realistically, will you actually be able to relax on the day, thinking about your baby and worrying about leaking milk? Is leaving the baby with someone really worth the hassle? Maybe consider option 2 or 3.
OPTION 2: Organise for baby to come with you to the wedding and be minded by someone else
This can work quite well for older babies. Rather than leaving baby with Granny, bring Granny (or other caregiver) with you. Book a room for her in the hotel. She can mind baby and bring him to you when he needs to feed. Alternatively, you could keep baby with you during the day and organise a hotel babysitter for a few hours during the night. The main consideration with option 2 is the additional cost involved. But weighed up against all that is involved in leaving baby, probably worth it.
OPTION 3: Bring the Baby to the Wedding
Breastfeeding mothers and their exclusively breastfed babes in arms are not meant to be apart. So bring the baby. Contact the bride and explain your concerns about leaving baby (stress that you really want to avoid milk leaking or worse still spraying all around the church), and that it would be much easier for you to bring him with you. He will not require a place setting at a table. And he probably won’t cry or cause a fuss once he is being fed and cuddled. The only big consideration you have once you decide to bring baby is what to wear – it will have to be something that is easy to feed in eg a wrap dress or top and trousers. Just go to Google to find lots of ideas – eg https://www.closetlondon.com/dresses-to-breastfeed-in.html
As for having a drink – yes you can! Obviously you’re not going to hit the booze in a big way, but it’s fine for you to have a drink or two while breastfeeding. Just have a drink after you feed baby, and by the time baby is ready to feed again, the alcohol will probably have left your bloodstream. More info here https://kellymom.com/bf/can-i-breastfeed/lifestyle/alcohol/
Sometimes it can take a while to reach a decision about what you’re going to do. We are very much conditioned by society to think that we should be able to leave our babies, and even that we shouldn’t let them become too attached to us. So listen to your heart, trust in your instinct and do what is right for you and your baby.
Please Note: Featured image above is Australian Blogger Haddas Ancliffe and her baby. She posted this photo on Instagram in 2016 with the caption “Me and my baby just having a drink (gotta do what you gotta, wedding or not.)” Here’s a link to her blog http://wholeheartedhoney.blogspot.ie/