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As a new mom, choosing to breastfeed is a decision you would find beneficial to you and your baby. But because nursing your baby requires a lot of energy, you may notice that breastfeeding makes you tired.
One question often asked is, does breastfeeding make you tired, or is it just being a new mom or even both?
So yes, breastfeeding does make you tired.
Your body works very hard to produce breast milk with all the goodness your baby needs, and some hormones play a huge role which you will find in this article. Sit back and read why.
RELATED READ: TIPS ABOUT BREASTFEEDING: A FULL GUIDE
Does breastfeeding alone make you tired?
You will feel tired as a breastfeeding mom because your body requires large amounts of energy to produce breast milk. Also, your sleeping pattern has been affected by your newborn.
However, there are other physiological reasons why breastfeeding will make you tired.
You have probably realized by now that pregnancy and childbirth come with various changes in your body. The cause of nearly all these changes is a cocktail of different hormones. Two major culprits are oxytocin and prolactin.
Because breastfeeding alters your hormone levels, sometimes the sudden changes can make you feel symptoms of exhaustion.
Oxytocin, the same hormone released during breastfeeding to encourage let-down, also reduces stress and relaxes you. This calmness can be interpreted as tiredness.
Apart from oxytocin, the hormone prolactin, released after delivery, tells your body to produce breast milk.
Prolactin production is more at night, so breastfeeding during this time helps keep up your milk supply. It also makes you feel relaxed and sleepy. This explains why you may feel tired while breastfeeding as a new mom.
Other reasons why you breastfeeding makes you tired?
You may feel tired frequently when breastfeeding your baby for the first time. Here are some of the possible causes:
Not getting enough sleep
When nursing a newborn, getting enough rest and sleep at night is difficult. Your baby will demand your attention to breastfeed, change diapers, or may just want to play.
A lack of sleep can leave you feeling tired and exhausted.
Not eating properly
As a breastfeeding mom, you barely have time to prepare healthy food. You may reach out for fast food, which often contains empty calories and lacks adequate nutrients. Eventually, you will find yourself lacking energy and feeling exhausted all the time. Need some easy snacks ideas, we have a full article!
A new mom may be prone to breastfeeding problems such as breast engorgement, cracked or sore nipples, mastitis, etc. Mastitis is an infection that can affect your breasts, making you feel ill and tired. (This is also true if you stop breastfeeding cold turkey.)
Doctors often need to prescribe antibiotics to treat mastitis.
Another reason why you may lack energy while breastfeeding is because of anemia, which is a low red blood cell count. If you lose a lot of blood during childbirth, it can trigger anemia.
You will likely need to take iron supplements and eat iron-rich foods like beans, chickpeas, lentils, lean red meats, seafood, and iron-fortified cereal to deal with the anemia.
Tips for Overcoming Tiredness While Breastfeeding
Being excessively tired can lead to a low breast milk supply and may make your baby fussy from not getting enough milk. So, below are a few tips you can use to overcome being tired and feel more energized:
RELATED READ: 9 QUICK AND EASY WAYS TO BOOST YOUR ENERGY AS A NEW MOM
Sleep when your baby sleeps
Yeah, you have probably heard it before, but it can seriously help. After childbirth, sleep deprivation can really mess with your energy levels.
So taking this advice is one of the best things you can do for yourself. Sleep when your little one sleeps, even if it is just for a few minutes. Your body will thank you for it.
When you exercise, there is a boost in feel-good hormones or endorphins which will make you feel more energized. Going on a short walk is good for your body and can help fight breastfeeding fatigue.
Start small and just get your body moving. But do not overdo it and use up all your energy. Remember that your body is still recovering, and it is best to take things slow.
The major component of breast milk is water, and you may notice that breastfeeding makes you thirstier. So increasing the amount of water you drink can help re-energize and quench your thirst.
You should drink lots of water to produce breast milk and other fluids: such as fruit juices, milk, soups, tea, etc.
And you want to avoid dehydration because it can lead to tiredness.
However, avoid the temptation to take tea containing caffeine. If you must drink tea, do so in moderation or stick to decaffeinated versions. Even though they keep you awake, they can lead to increased fluid loss, and you risk getting dehydrated.
Eat healthy foods
You should eat a well-balanced and healthy diet. Producing breast milk requires a lot of energy. And every day, you should eat roughly 400 to 500 extra calories while breastfeeding. This translates to about 2,300 to 2,500 total calories per day.
Include more protein, complex carbs, and fiber-rich foods as they help in boosting your energy levels. Eat food like potatoes, oatmeal, veggies, fruits, yogurt, lean cuts of meat, etc.
Stay away from processed food containing refined sugars. They can cause spikes in your blood sugar levels, followed by a rebound drop in blood sugar, leaving you feeling exhausted.
RELATED READ: DOES BREASTFEEDING MAKE YOU HUNGRY?
Take Your Supplements
In addition to eating a healthy diet, you should keep taking your prenatal vitamins while breastfeeding. Your doctor can prescribe some for you. They can help if you suffer from vitamin deficiencies and boost your energy.
Get help with house chores
No one expects your home to be spotless while nursing a new baby, so you shouldn’t put pressure on yourself to get a bunch of cleaning or housework done.
Ask your partner, friends, and family to help with housework, laundry, cooking, and caring for your little one.
Entertaining visitors can be fun. But when you are nursing a newborn baby and are always tired, you might want to let everyone know you are not ready for it yet. Of course, family and friends who help with the housework or watch the baby while you nap are always welcome.
Catch up on your favorite TV shows
If watching TV keeps you engaged and awake, why don’t you try catching up on movies you have had on your watchlist for a long time.
If playing games is your thing, enjoy a few rounds of chess, scrabble, or even snakes and ladders with your significant other. It keeps your brain active and alert.
And if you prefer those on your smartphone, by all means, indulge yourself.
When to speak to a Doctor
If you still struggle with postpartum fatigue after you have tried the tips listed above. You should seek help by speaking to a lactation consultant or your doctor.
It may be because of an underlying medical condition such as mastitis, breast engorgement, or a nutritional deficiency. Your doctor may advise you on the medication or supplements you need.
The bottom line
So, breastfeeding mothers, if you are still wondering why you feel more tired while breastfeeding. It is not just because of a lack of sleep. Breastfeeding and the hormones that facilitate it can make you tired and exhausted.
Breastfeeding itself is an art. It will take some learning and unlearning to master it. Do not be afraid to seek help and ask questions if you get stuck.
Always remember that postpartum fatigue is temporary.
The newborn period does not last too long. Although it may not feel that way when you are in the middle of it.
As your little one gets older and begins to sleep for extended periods, you should be able to get more rest.
Do you have more tips to help with being tired while breastfeeding? Share with us in the comments below!