How To Beat Breastfeeding Exhaustion
Breastfeeding exhaustion is brutal and sadly, overlooked!
Last night I had a dream that I was pregnant for the fourth time and I panicked! Don’t get me wrong. I LOVE babies – I’m always joking that I’d have a soccer team of kids if I could.
But, in my dream, seeing the positive pregnancy test, made me feel exhausted. I still vividly remember my exhaustion after my daughter was born.
I remember how tiring it was recovering post c section and not getting enough sleep. How tiring it was when I was awake and breastfeeding while everybody else got to sleep.
Even when I started to get more sleep, I still felt tired primarily because of exhaustion caused by breastfeeding and pumping. There were days when my babies were going through growth spurts and it felt like all I did was nurse them. It felt like my existence was purely to feed my baby.
I read of other moms’ breastfeeding experiences and even my friends’ experiences who described breastfeeding to be magical, emotional, and special.
Yes, I felt all those too eventually (read my story here) but at first, I didn’t feel the bond and I was just.so.exhausted!
I really dislike feeling so lethargic so I set out to beat the breastfeeding exhaustion and regain some semblance of my normally energetic self. I made some much needed changes with my diet and self care routines and was able to feel pretty amazing.
In the end, I ended up loving and enjoying my breastfeeding experience with my daughter.
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Why does breastfeeding make you so tired
If you just think of what breastfeeding is, it’s understandable that breastfeeding moms would feel tired. It’s hard work!
Of course, it’s invisible work and so you and your partner may not immediately think that it could have such a draining effect on your body.
Your body works overtime to make nutrients for your baby and so, breastfeeding requires more energy from you.
Breastfeeding also means that for the first few weeks at least, you’re on demand, around the clock. That alone is cause for extreme exhaustion.
And, as if breastfeeding one baby is not exhausting enough, when you have other kids, a job and a house to look after, it’s almost miraculous that moms are functioning at all.
How much energy do you need while breastfeeding to Fight Exhaustion
According to Kellymom.com “Per Breastfeeding and Human Lactation (Riordan, 2004, p. 438), “The amount of energy needed by lactating mothers continues to be debated. The lactating mother need not maintain a markedly higher caloric intake than that maintained prior to pregnancy: in most cases, 400-500 calories in excess of that which is needed to maintain the mother’s body weight is sufficient.”
Why does breastfeeding make You sleepy
The hormones prolactin and oxytocin play important roles during and after pregnancy.
NCIB (National Center for Biotechnology Information) breaks down their roles. For breastfeeding, “Prolactin and oxytocin are released in response to stimulation by the baby’s sucking at the breast. Prolactin is responsible for milk production, and oxytocin for milk letdown. However, these hormones are beneficial in other ways. Prolactin is sometimes called “the love hormone.” In animals, it is responsible for mothering behaviors. Oxytocin is responsible for the relaxed, sometimes sleepy, calm feelings that accompany milk letdown. Together, these two hormones keep mothers relaxed, calm, and ready to care for their babies (Uvnas-Moberg, 2003). In a very real sense, the birth of a baby is also the birth of a mother—the birth of a breastfeeding baby and mother.
This is gold for night time nursing. It definitely helps mom to drift off to sleep easier.
4 easy tips to Beat breastfeeding Exhaustion
Now on to the good stuff! How do we beat breastfeeding exhaustion and get back some MUCH NEEDED energy? And perhaps, more importantly, can this be done in a simple way? The very last thing a new mom needs at this point is more work or something extra to remember.
With this in mind, I listened to my body and did some light research. Thankfully, I was able to simplify things so that I didn’t add too much to my plate and I was able to fully benefit from following these 4 tips.
Ahhhh, of course, this had to be a critical aspect of overcoming my breastfeeding fatigue! I have such an epic love-hate relationship with exercise. I know it’s so good for me but ahh man! sometimes I just want to curl up on the couch. But of course, when I pump myself up and get it done – I feel AH-MAZING.
You might be like me, and this is the very last thing you want to do right now. But, I promise you, it’s one of the best things you can do for yourself and by extension, for your family. Even in it’s simplest form, exercise will do your body and mind wonders.
Once you get clearance from your doctor, start with light exercises such as walking then work your way up. You will find that your energy levels improve and your body transformation will be an added benefit.
2. Drink more water
I cannot stress this enough (in fact, I think I will dedicate a post to the incredible benefits of water). Water is one of the most important requirements for all of us because of it’s hydrating and other health benefits. For breastfeeding moms, in particular, though, it’s super important as we need it for healthy milk production.
Each time I started nursing, I remember feeling extremely hot and thirsty. All I wanted was ice cold water.
It honestly almost felt like my body was exaggerating and I was making up how I was feeling lol. That is, until it continued happening. Of course, there was a logical and scientific reason I got those feelings and I wasn’t making it up or crazy lol
Very Well Family explained it quite simply – “The release of oxytocin while you’re breastfeeding can raise your body temperature so you may feel hot while you’re nursing. It might also make you feel thirsty.”
3. Maintain a well balanced diet
When you’re breastfeeding, it’s arguably even more important to prioritize eating a balanced well diet because there’s so much going on that it’s easy to prioritize a lot of other things.
You have to take in enough nutrients for two people – you and your baby. A diet that excludes all processed foods and one that is low in processed sugar, will ensure that you get a much-needed energy boost.
There are still food restrictions for breastfeeding moms and your health care provider can provide the necessary resources and guidelines for you.
4. Prioritize and practice Self Care
This was the hardest part for me. I tend to push myself past my limits and I always pay the price. I push so far that I eventually end up sick or just so tired that my body aches. Don’t do this.
Listen to your body, take breaks, and know that this isn’t selfish. Needing time off and asking for help also does not make you weak. This had become (and still is) my daily mantra.
In our case, we didn’t have much of a support system other than each other and so I kept pushing myself because I knew if I didn’t do it then it would all fall on my husband.
It was counterproductive though, because if I ended up getting sick then it would still have fallen on him! So in essence, my approach made no sense.
Instead, we started checking in with one another more and trying to find ways of supporting one another.
My best advice is to be gentle with yourself.
Being aware and realistic with your personal circumstances and the level of your exhaustion is key to overcoming or reducing it.
I made the mistake of going down the rabbit hole of comparing my circumstances and experiences with other moms and all it got me was frustrated and depressed.
It was easier for me to feel like there was something wrong with me and I was a bad mom for not loving it and bonding with my kids in the exact same way I had read. I felt like a slave to breastfeeding and still, I pushed myself more when I should have slowed down. But, I did what I felt was best for my babies and I truly have no regrets because that was my main intention.
So, for moms who are new to breastfeeding – I want you to know that it can be very EXHAUSTING. But! It’s for a time and it really is one of the best experiences. Using the tips in this post will definitely help you regain some energy so that you feel less lethargic.
One day your baby will stop breastfeeding and maybe you’ll miss it, maybe you won’t. I didn’t miss it with my first two babies, but I think I’ll miss it with my daughter. I was able to form a bond with her while breastfeeding that I wasn’t able to with my other kids because, with her, I prioritized reducing my oversupply of breastmilk and overcoming breastfeeding exhaustion.
At the end of it all, once you do what is best for you and your baby, that’s all that matters.
I’d love to hear your breastfeeding experience in the comments below.