While a lovely way to bond, breastfeeding your baby when it's hot outside can prove challenging for a number of reasons. We've pulled together a bunch of helpful tips to make breastfeeding a doddle even when it’s hot, hot, hot!
Remember your milk is enough
You already know that your breastmilk is amazing and perfectly designed to give your baby everything he needs. It’s even clever enough to adapt in the summer. ‘When you get hot, more blood circulates to your breasts,’ says lactation consultant Angela Cartwright. ‘The mammary glands in your breast act a bit like sweat glands and this extra blood causes them to produce more milk with a higher water content.’ This means you won’t need to give him any additional water. ‘If your baby is under six months, giving additional water can actually interrupt the salt balance in your baby’s body, whereas your breastmilk is perfectly balanced to suit your baby’s age and stage and will give him everything he needs,’ says Angela.
You’ll probably find that your baby is likely to want to feed more often and for shorter periods to quench his thirst so just be sure to feed on demand rather than sticking to a routine.
As well as thinking about what your baby is drinking, give yourself equal consideration in the heat. ‘Leave water bottles around the house so you can drink whenever you need to,’ says Angela. ‘If it’s a hot day, you’re likely to feel really thirsty as your baby will be taking more water from you.’ Get in the habit of having a drink every time you feed your baby, and aim to drink an extra litre of water day while breastfeeding (three litres instead of the usual two).
Hydration tracker water bottles, such as HydrateM8 Hydration Tracker can help you keep on top of your fluid intake and if you’re worried you will forget, set regular reminders on your phone. ‘New mums are often too busy to drink or may reach for something like coffee, which is dehydrating,’ says Angela. ‘It’s really important to stay hydrated for your own wellbeing as well as for your milk supply.’
Bored of guzzling plain old water? Coconut water is a great alternative – it’s rich in potassium, which helps your body regulate its fluid balance. Or try flavoured birch water, such as Bilberry and Lingonberry Tapped Birch Water which contains calcium, manganese and zinc – electrolytes that will help you stay hydrated and replace some of the sodium and minerals you lose when you sweat.
If you struggle with the volume of drinking so much water, try chilling pieces of watermelon, which is 92 per cent water and will boost your fluid intake. Watermelon is also a good source of replenishing electrolytes such as potassium and vitamins A, B6 and C, plus it will help cool you down.
Take a pit stop
Summer days out and holidays can mean more long car journeys than usual. ‘Your baby may sleep for longer than usual due to the motion of the car, meaning he might not wake for feeds as often as he would at home,’ says Angela. ‘Also bear in mind that the air conditioning in many cars doesn’t quite reach the back so while you might feel quite cool in the front, your baby might be quite hot. If you’re going on a long car journey on a hot day, make extra stops and wake your baby up for a feed.’ Be sure not to go for longer than two hours without taking a break.
Check his nappy
You can make sure your baby is getting enough milk by keeping an eye on his nappies – there should be at least five wet nappies in 24 hours. ‘Breastfed babies should also have quite runny stools, especially if your baby is not eating solids,’ says Angela. Look out for any signs of dehydration such as dark coloured urine or hard stools – frequent breastfeeding will reverse the effects of mild dehydration. However, if your baby refuses to feed or seems unwell, seek medical advice.
Lying down to feed will help you feel cooler than holding your baby across your body and it’s a great opportunity to relax during a hot, busy day. You could also take it up a notch by feeding in a cool bath – just make sure your breast stays above the water level and keep an eye on your baby’s airways. Place a small towel on the bottom of the bath before you get in so you won’t slip around while breastfeeding.
Reach for a muslin
‘Avoid feeling hot and sticky by putting a muslin, facecloth or small towel between you and your baby during feeds so the only bits of skin that are touching are your breast and your baby’s face,’ Angela suggests. ‘Spray the muslin with water to help keep you both cool.’
Freeze your water bottle
Freeze a bottle of water and put it in your changing bag next to some muslins. This will give you a handy stock of cold muslins to cool you both down when feeding. Plus, you’ll have a chilled drink to hand when you get thirsty.
Try a rugby hold
Try nursing in an underarm rugby ball position as this conducts less body heat than a traditional cradle hold. Support your baby by placing your hand under his head and shoulders and let his legs point behind you.
Pack a thin scarf
If it is too hot to wear layers, you might feel a bit more exposed than usual when breastfeeding in public. Put a light thin scarf in your bag so you can drape it over your shoulder when feeding should you want more privacy. Choose a cool breathable fabric such as cotton or linen, which will allow heat to escape and soak up any sweat.
What our mums say...
‘When my first was six months old, I managed to survive hot days by getting myself comfy in the paddling pool in the garden – a little bit of shallow water in the shade was brilliant for taking the edge off and easy-peasy to feed in.’ Emma Flynn, 34, from Paisley, is mum to Innes, two, and Jamie, four months.
‘Breastpads were my best friend during the summer. I found I leaked a lot more in the hot weather, probably because of a change in supply with having to nurse little and often!’ Sarah Sunderland, 33, from West Yorkshire, is mum to Arthur, four, and Charlotte, one.
‘I gave birth in a heatwave so right from the start I was breastfeeding in hot weather. I took the opportunity to have lots of skin-to-skin contact by wearing very little when we were home.’ Amy Benziane, 30, from London, is mum to Esme, three.
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Catherine Ball is a mum-of-four and freelance journalist who specialises in parenting and health. As well as writing regularly for Mother & Baby since 2015, her work has appeared in a number of publications, including the Sunday Mirror, the Independent, Top Sante, Closer Online, Metro and Parents.com. She has worked as a journalist for more than 18 years, including more than a decade working as a news reporter.
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