Challenging. Sweaty. A guaranteed bee-attracter. Those are the words that come to mind when Jordan Moore thinks about breastfeeding in the heat of summer, especially outdoors. “I’m a mom who likes to be out and about, no matter the weather,” says Moore, who lives in Dundas, Ont. and owns a maternity and nursing apparel website and has two kids, Maeve, nine months, and Mide, 4.
But on one particularly sweltering day in the park, Moore found herself struggling with the buttons of her top and coping with a fussy, hot baby who didn’t want to latch while a curious wasp buzzed around her head. “In the end, we packed up and relocated to a coffee shop not far away, where we were able to cool off in the AC,” she says.
Enjoying the summer season with a nursing baby requires patience. Overheated babies may not want to feed as often or for as long, while sweat-soaked mamas may find themselves dreading yet another sticky nursing session. Fortunately, there are things you can do to keep your cool. Here are some handy tips and techniques to make breastfeeding in the heat a lot more comfortable.
1. Strategize to stay cool
On really hot days, it’s a good idea to stay indoors during the sun’s peak (between noon and 3 p.m.). Think of air conditioning as your greatest ally, Moore says. The mall, your favourite coffee shop, a friend’s house—if you’re really struggling with the heat, try to find any cool spot that will bring your body temperature down to a more comfortable level.
If you have no choice but to nurse outdoors, look for a shady spot or a canopied area. Moore says a cute hat is a must for protecting yourself from the sun’s harsh rays, and she also always carries a lightweight blanket to protect her baby’s sensitive skin. If your wee one is fussy and irritable, cool her off with a cloth that’s been dampened in lukewarm water, Moore suggests. (Feel free to give yourself the once-over too.)
2. Shorten feeding sessions
Many parents worry that their babies will become dehydrated in the hotter weather, but as long as they’re still nursing frequently, are nursing efficiently, are satisfied after feeding, and are producing enough wet diapers with light-coloured urine, they’re getting enough liquid. “Sometimes babies are thirstier in hot weather, just like us, and they want to nurse more frequently. The feedings might be shorter than usual—just follow baby’s lead,” says Holly Bowler, a registered nurse and international board certified lactation consultant at McMaster University in Hamilton, Ont. Babies older than six months can drink water as well (in a sippy cup, straw cup, open cup or bottle), but make sure the water does not replace their normal nursing sessions.
If you’re still concerned about hydration, however, feel free to offer your baby the breast more often, adds Attie Sandink, a lactation consultant and educator based in Burlington, Ont. If your baby really is thirsty, she’ll likely let you know by taking you up on the offer.
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“You can also try placing a thin cloth or thin receiving blanket between you and your baby during a feeding,” Bowler says.
3. Stay hydrated
When you’re breastfeeding, you’ll probably find that you’re thirstier than usual anyway—and on hot days it’s even more important than ever to make sure you’re drinking enough. Signs of dehydration include irritability, headache, dry mouth, a feeling of thirst, and darker-than-usual urine. Prevent dehydration by carrying a refillable water bottle with you. Bowler suggests drinking a glass of water every time baby drinks. If water’s not really your thing, eat more high-water-content fruit, like watermelon, as well as frozen fruit and other fresh fruits and vegetables.