Breastfeeding in the summer heat can be tough, and as a mum to a toddler, I’ve experienced the ups and downs of breastfeeding. It can be difficult at the best of times without hot weather complicating things! To help fellow mums get through the hot weather this summer, together with the help of some of my colleagues, I’ve put together a guide to breastfeeding in the summer.
This guide will provide advice on making yourself and baby a little more comfortable in the heat, tips on breastfeeding in hot weather and signs to look out for that indicate dehydration.
How does hot weather affect breastfeeding?
During the summer as the temperature rises, you may find that your breastfeeding routine and breast milk changes.
You may find in hot weather that your baby either does not want to feed too much in the middle of day or that they are keen to feed more regularly but for shorter periods. Whilst it can be unsettling, try not to worry too much and just go with what baby wants. Follow a few more of the tips included below if you think baby is getting too hot.
There is a risk of dehydration in warmer weather. However, if you are breastfeeding, you may find that your breast milk has a higher water content to help keep baby hydrated. If it is not noticeably more watery, don’t worry either! As long as you keep yourself hydrated, this will help keep the water content up of your breast milk and help you avoid dehydration.
If your baby is older than six months, you can also offer them fruits with a high water content such as watermelon to help keep them hydrated. Breastmilk lollies can also be helpful!
What if my baby is formula fed as well?
The same principles apply really. Your baby may not take their full bottle but might want to feed more frequently. The main difference here is if they are below six months old, you can offer babies sips of cooled boiled water when it is hot as formula does not contain as much water content as breast milk. Small sips are sufficient; it shouldn’t replace the feeds themselves. If you are combination feeding then still continue to offer the breast as you usually would.
What can you do to help your baby keep cool in the hot weather?
If you are outdoors, find a cool shaded area to breastfeed. Even better, use a fan or feed in an air-conditioned room. If using a fan, this should not be directed straight onto baby for long periods of time. If it’s a particularly hot day, you might find air conditioned places such as a shopping centre or café a better environment to spend time in!
Dress your baby in loose-fitting clothes (cotton is lovely and breathable) or even just a nappy if it is really hot. Lighter colours reflect the sun better than dark colours which will absorb the rays. Make use of a wide-brimmed hat as well.
Hang up damp towels to help cool down the room.
Avoid direct sunlight especially during peak hours of 11 am – 3 pm. Sunscreen isn’t usually advised for those under six months due to the sensitivity of their skin so it’s best to stay in the shade. However smaller amounts can be put on the sun-exposed areas and you might want to consider using a mineral sunscreen rather than a chemical one. Mineral sunscreens can be gentler and can also be applied immediately before going into the sun rather than having to wait for 20 minutes as you have to with the chemical sunscreens.
Use shade like a parasol when out. Using a muslin to cover the pram isn’t advised as it can actually increase the temperature inside. Some prams have summer shades or you can make use of a purpose-built sunshade that allows adequate ventilation.
You can consider using a water mister but make sure you cover little one’s eyes when spraying!
What about taking care of yourself in the hot weather?
Obviously, a lot of attention is focused on the baby but don’t forget yourselves, breastfeeding in the summer heat is tough.
Make sure you are drinking plenty! You need to stay hydrated – aim for at least 2-2.5 litres of water daily but the most important is to listen to your body. If you drink to satisfy your thirst you will stay well hydrated. Be sure to carry a large bottle of water with you.
Stay in the shade and avoid direct sunlight yourself. The last thing you want to happen is to get heatstroke!
Do I need to change anything if I am expressing?
Not really. Express as you usually would, just be sure to keep yourself hydrated as previously mentioned. In addition, you may notice your milk looks a little more watery as a way of compensating for the heat.
Breastfeeding in the summer heat: When should I be worried? How do I know if my baby is dehydrated?
If you notice the following symptoms of dehydration in your little one then you should consult a Doctor:
- Passing less urine – you will notice fewer wet/less heavy nappies and the urine might be darker in colour too
- Dry lips
- Sunken eyes
- Absence of tears
Dr Stephanie Ooi and Lactation Consultant Ann Dobson, MyHealthcare Clinic