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As a paramedic and a mother of two who has experienced the breastfeeding journey first-hand, I understand how taxing it can be! Today, let’s delve into why breastfeeding can be so exhausting, and more importantly, how we can manage and fight fatigue.
Breastfeeding mothers often report experiencing extreme fatigue, a common side effect of this physically and emotionally demanding period. Many new moms find that breastfeeding makes them tired, so tired that they could fall asleep standing up! This feeling is so universal that there’s even a phrase for it – “breastfeeding mom tired.”
Postpartum fatigue is a common issue that many new mothers face and breastfeeding can contribute to this fatigue. The constant demand for breast milk production and feeding can leave mothers feeling drained and exhausted. Additionally, the mental strain of being the sole provider of nourishment for a newborn can be overwhelming and sap all your energy, leading to feelings of anxiety and stress. It’s important for new mothers to understand the challenges of breastfeeding and to seek support when needed.
Despite the challenges, breastfeeding remains a popular feeding choice for many parents. It provides numerous benefits for both the mother and baby, including bonding and immune system support.
As a paramedic and a mother of two, I’ve had my share of sleepless nights and seemingly endless days. Breastfeeding, while incredibly rewarding, can be surprisingly exhausting. This post aims to explore “Why is breastfeeding so exhausting?” and provide some useful tips to help you manage.
Why is Breastfeeding So Exhausting?
Here are some reasons why breastfeeding can be tiring and some tips to help you cope.
Breastfeeding requires a lot of physical effort from a mother’s body. It can be a strain on the back, neck, and arms, especially when you’re holding your baby for long periods. This can lead moms to feel fatigued and sore, making it difficult to rest and recover. Make sure you are using a high quality chair when you breastfeed at home. Check out my recommendations here: The Best Breastfeeding Chair: Top 5 for 2023
Additionally, breastfeeding can cause sore nipples, which can make it uncomfortable to continue nursing.
Your body works tirelessly to produce a constant breast milk supply, which can leave you feeling fatigued. This exhaustion can be particularly intense in the postpartum period when your body is also recovering from childbirth. Hormonal shifts, such as the decrease of adrenaline after giving birth, can further exacerbate this breastfeeding fatigue. Check out my post: How To Naturally Balance Hormones While Breastfeeding: 7 Powerful Tips
If you’re noticing extreme tiredness, it may not just be due to lack of sleep. Sometimes, breastfeeding moms can experience nutritional deficiencies, particularly if their diet isn’t well-balanced. It’s crucial to intake enough calories, lean protein, whole grains, and fresh fruits. Include iron supplements in your regime if your doctor suggests, as low iron levels can contribute to fatigue. A prenatal vitamin can also be beneficial during this time.
Breastfeeding can also be emotionally draining. It requires a lot of patience, dedication, and time, which can be challenging for new mothers who may be already dealing with postpartum depression, anxiety, and stress.
It can also be difficult to balance the demands of breastfeeding with other responsibilities, such as household chores, caring for older children, and returning to work.
Alongside the physical demands, breastfeeding can also be emotionally draining. The milk letdown reflex, for instance, can sometimes lead to feelings of sadness or depression, often referred to as the ‘baby blues’. Breastfeeding also brings a new set of challenges and responsibilities, which can lead to increased stress levels.
How to Cope with Breastfeeding Exhaustion
While breastfeeding can drain your energy levels, it doesn’t mean you have to feel exhausted all the time. There are several ways to combat fatigue and regain energy and mental focus. Here are some strategies that worked for me:
Taking care of yourself is essential when you’re breastfeeding. Here are some self-care tips to help you cope with exhaustion:
Rest when your baby is sleeping. It’s the oldest trick in the book but it works!
Try to nap or relax instead of doing chores or other activities. Adequate rest cannot be stressed enough. Sleep when the baby sleeps, even if it’s a quick nap, to help lessen the sleep deprivation. This may sound like a no-brainer, but getting more sleep is vital.
Co-sleeping can sometimes make night feeds easier, but always ensure you’re following safe co-sleeping guidelines.
Stay hydrated and eat healthy foods.
Drink lots of water to support milk production and maintain energy levels. Breastfeeding requires extra calories, so make sure you’re getting enough nutrients. A healthy diet is key to fight fatigue.
Incorporate healthy fats into your diet
Taking prenatal vitamins can provide an energy boost
Consume natural sugars from fresh fruits
Calories from whole grains and lean protein can help boost your energy levels
Adequate water intake is essential when breastfeeding. Remember, a significant component of breast milk is water, so keep that water bottle nearby!
Include high protein snacks in your diet to keep your energy levels up. Protein powders are also excellent for this.
If you are feeling tired Get some exercise, even if it’s just a short walk around the block, to help boost your mood and energy levels. Though it might seem counterintuitive, physical activity can actually boost your energy levels. A short walk in the fresh air can do wonders and can provide fresh air, a change of scenery, and a slight energy boost.
Ask for help from friends and family
Don’t be afraid to accept offers to help with household chores and other responsibilities to give yourself time to rest and recover. Don’t hesitate to delegate household chores or ask for support. As a new mom, taking care of your baby and yourself should be the priority.
Take breaks from breastfeeding
If possible, pump milk and have someone else feed your baby so you can take a break. Consider supplementing with formula feeding if you’re struggling to keep up with your baby’s needs or experiencing pain or discomfort.
Check out my recommendations for the best breast pumps:
Practice relaxation techniques
Try deep breathing or yoga.
Read my posts for further tips:
Take pain medication or use nipple cream to help alleviate soreness and discomfort.
Take time to bond
Bond with your baby during feedings by cuddling, talking, or singing to help make the experience more enjoyable and rewarding. You could also try wearing your new baby in a baby carrier, which allows you to rest while still keeping your little one close.
When to Seek Help
Sometimes, breastfeeding fatigue might be more than just tiredness. It’s important to be aware of postpartum fatigue which can linger longer than the initial weeks post birth. If you’re experiencing extreme tiredness beyond the first month postpartum, it’s essential to seek help. Conditions like postpartum thyroid issues or other medical conditions could be the cause.
You may be on a prescription pain medication post-birth – talk to your doctor to understand if this is making you feel tired.
To get a more in-depth understanding, you can refer to this Mayo Clinic article.
If you’re feeling more than just tired, it might be a sign of a medical condition, like postpartum depression or thyroid issues. Also, be on the lookout for symptoms of breast infection (mastitis), such as breast tenderness and redness. If you have any concerns, most doctors recommend seeking medical advice sooner rather than later.
Here are some ways to get support:
Talk to your healthcare provider or a lactation consultant. They can provide guidance and support for breastfeeding issues.
Join a breastfeeding support group. Meeting other moms who are going through similar experiences can be helpful.
Consider therapy or counseling. Hormonal changes during breastfeeding can affect mental health, and therapy can help you cope with negative feelings.
Be aware of dysphoric milk ejection reflex (D-MER). This is a rare condition where women experience negative emotions during letdown. If you think you might have D-MER, talk to your healthcare provider.
Breastfeeding can indeed be an exhausting journey, but remember that you’re not alone. Reach out to fellow moms, healthcare professionals, and lactation consultants. The support and advice you can find in your community can be incredibly helpful.
And remember, it’s okay to feel tired. It’s okay to ask for help. You’re doing an incredible job nourishing your precious baby, and that is something to be proud of.
For more tips and advice, check out these resources:
Remember, it’s okay to wean if breastfeeding is causing too much stress or exhaustion. Your hormone levels will eventually return to normal, and you can still bond with your baby through other forms of feeding. Taking care of yourself is essential for both you and your baby’s well-being.
I remember only too well the exhaustion – it’s not like being pregnant was particularly restful and then you have the physical endurance of the birth to top it off! No time to spare and you are suddenly dealing with learning to breastfeed and care for a brand new person. What a rollercoaster!
My best advice: fight the overwhelm and definitely don’t compare yourself to other moms (we all know someone who did a half marathon at 4 weeks postpartum!). Trust your instincts and live in the moment – all too soon this phase will be over and you are one to the next one – oh the joys of motherhood!
Have Questions? I Have Answers.
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