Suffering from breastfeeding exhaustion and postpartum fatigue? The first 12 weeks home with your baby can be so tiring and exhausting for new moms!
Breastfeeding delivers some amazing benefits for you and your baby, but it too can become exhausting at times. It may feel even more overwhelming if you decide to breastfeed exclusively and on demand. Your baby’s needs must come before your desire to sleep, and that may mean sleeping in spurts of no more than three hours in the first few weeks.
It may feel at times like breastfeeding has taken over your life, but keep in mind that postpartum exhaustion is a problem for all new mothers. When researchers asked 253 new mothers for insight into their perceived level of exhaustion, they found that breastfeeding mothers were similarly fatigued as bottle-feeding mothers.
Researchers asked the new mothers questions regarding their perceived levels of exhaustion at 2-4 days then six and 12 weeks postpartum. All of the participants experienced exhaustion at similar levels. The researchers noted that many women associate breastfeeding with postpartum exhaustion, but the results showed no correlation between perceived exhaustion and feeding choice.
When breastfeeding exhaustion sets in, remind yourself that most new mothers are experiencing the same thing. Bottle feeding won’t solve the problem, and there are so many benefits to sticking with breastfeeding for at least the first year of your baby’s life. The good news is that we have some tips to help you survive the first 12 exhausting weeks.
8 Ways to Fight Breastfeeding Exhaustion and Postpartum Fatigue:
1. Make Self-Care a Priority
It’s easy to forget about your own needs when you have an infant depending on you for constant nourishment, comfort and safety. Add in chores around the house and time spent with your spouse and older children in the home, and caring for yourself may seem like a luxury.
Do yourself a favor and find ways to make it a priority. You’ll feel better. You’ll have more energy. You may even lower your risk of sinking into post-partum depression.
Self-care doesn’t have to take a lot of time. Some days it may mean taking a shower and using your favorite body lotion. Other days it may mean putting the baby in the stroller and heading out for a walk around the block. Caring for your body and getting out in the sunshine are small things that can make a tremendous difference in how you feel.
2. Check Your Iron Levels
More than half of all new mothers have low iron levels in their blood. Anemia can lead to fatigue, which only makes breastfeeding exhaustion feel worse. You can solve this problem by asking your doctor to check your iron levels and other possible medical issues that may contribute to exhaustion. A supplement can help you restore your iron levels to pre-pregnancy levels.
3. Don’t Stress Over Chores
Exhaustion easily sets in when you’re trying to keep up with your old household routines and chores on top of breastfeeding a new baby. Many new mothers experience anxiety when looking at baskets of clean clothes that never made it to the closet or carpets that haven’t been swept in a week or longer. It can lead you to give up valuable rest time in favor of cleaning.
If you can mentally embrace the fact that your house may not always look pristine for the first 12 weeks of your baby’s life, you may feel less exhausted once the baby is born. Accepting that fact may allow you to sleep when the baby sleeps rather than washing dishes, putting laundry away or sorting the mail. Prioritize rest because you won’t have the energy to care for your baby or handle your emotions appropriately if you get too exhausted.
If you really cannot stand a messy house, use the next tip to get the chores down without doing it all yourself.
4. Ask for & Accept Help Even BEFORE You are Exhausted
Many new mothers never ask for help because they don’t want to bother others. If you’re not the type of person to naturally ask for help, step out of your comfort zone in the early days of parenting. Ask your partner or other members of your household to pick up the slack on household chores, allowing you to spend more time resting without anxiety over your home.
You may also ask your partner or another trusted family member or friend to spend some time with the baby when you really need a nap or a long shower. If an unswept floor is irritating you, maybe it’s time to teach an older child to run the vacuum. Children can also dust, load the dishwasher and put their own laundry away.
Also consider hiring someone to help around the house. If you can’t afford a professional maid service, think creatively. Maybe the high school student across the street will walk your dog or complete basic household chores for a few bucks each week. Perhaps the youth group at your church could use a new service project.
When others ask if you need any help, don’t say no right away. Take a moment to think of small things that would give you more time to rest or cuddle with your baby. Accepting help isn’t a sign of weakness, and it doesn’t make you a burden. It makes you a responsible parent who looks out for her own well-being while caring for her family.
5. Stop Multitasking
Moms are pros when it comes to multitasking, but it will work against you in the early days of parenting. Give your brain and your body a break by focusing on one task at a time. When you’re feeding your baby, focus only on him. If it’s time to load the dishwasher, don’t make a phone call at the same time. If you need to relax, turn on soft music or a guided meditation track and close your eyes.
6. Walk It Out
The more you move your body, the more energy you will naturally create. Research has proven that going for a walk or completing some other form of exercise will help boost energy levels. If you spend your time sitting on the couch watching Netflix, you’re likely to have the opposite experience. You won’t have as much energy and will feel more exhausted.
You’re certainly entitled to downtime, and you definitely need to rest. You also need to make time for a walk, a few minutes of stretching, or perhaps some guided meditation with an app on your phone. These activities will encourage your body to produce energy to help you combat fatigue.
If you exercised regularly prior to giving birth, ask your doctor if you can do some light form of that exercise after delivery. As soon as you’re cleared for exercise, get back to your old routine if at all possible. You will feel less fatigued as a result.
7. Don’t Worry About the Baby Weight
You want to get your body back after giving birth, but it can wait. Restricting calories may interfere with your production of breast milk and can leave you feeling fatigued. Exercise is good for energy production, but too much too soon can leave you feeling overwhelmed rather than refreshed. It’s better to love the body you have and worry about your figure later.
8. Don’t Skip Meals or Snacks
Choose the healthiest foods that you can get your hands on because your body needs the vitamins, minerals and nutrients to generate energy. Those nutrients will also help your body heal from childbirth, which is essential to your mental and physical health during postpartum.
It’s best to eat small meals and snacks throughout the day. Large, heavy meals will weigh you down and may make you want to sleep when your baby is alert. Try to stash snacks around the house so you always have something healthy within reach.
Drinking water is equally as important as nutritious foods. Keeping a water bottle with you at all times will ensure your body has what it needs to make breast milk without pulling from your body and leaving you dehydrated. Dehydration will only add to your exhaustion and can lead to a medical emergency if it gets too severe.
You can make smoothies if you struggle to find time to cook meals. Add fruits and vegetables with Greek yogurt, almond milk or other sources of protein for a healthy snack that requires nothing more than a blender. Meal replacement shakes are another option, but you don’t want to rely on them too much. You still need solid foods.
One Last Rule to Fight Postpartum Fatigue
If something overwhelms, let it go. Follow that one simple rule, and you will overcome much of the exhaustion that comes with the breastfeeding experience. When you start to feel overwhelmed or frustrated, stop and ask yourself what would happen if you just let whatever it is that is overwhelming you to go. In many cases, you will find that it’s possible to just not worry about the little things that suck your energy up.
That doesn’t mean that you’re giving up on life or letting those things go permanently. It just means that they aren’t your priorities right now. Maybe something that is a little inconvenient or annoying needs to just remain for now. You can sort it out eventually. There’s no rush to get it all done today.
Today…just be a good momma. That is already a lot.
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