Breastfeeding makes me feel tired — here's how to combat postpartum fatigue

Breastfeeding got you yawning? Trust us; you're not alone!
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Kaitlyn Wilson
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June 3, 2024
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Breastfeeding Makes Me Tired: How to Combat Postpartum Fatigue | Kin Fertility
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Breastfeeding got you yawning? Trust us; you're not alone!

As a mum, we're sure you know that postpartum fatigue is very real, but did you know that breastfeeding can actually make you feel more tired? From recovering from labour to adjusting to mum life and navigating the world of cracked nipples and milk blebs, which involves more than a few sleepless nights and a lot of stress, it's a miracle that mums have any energy at all.

But fret not breastfeeding mums, there are a few simple solutions to help you fight fatigue, even without getting a bit more sleep (because we know that isn't always possible).

What is postpartum fatigue?

Sleep deprivation is par for the course when it comes to being a mum, but postpartum fatigue is a different beast. This severe form of exhaustion affects around 40 per cent of women within the first few weeks or so after delivery.

Postpartum fatigue is defined as a chronic lack of energy affecting one's mental focus and physical abilities [1]. This extreme fatigue affects concentration and attention levels and cannot be easily relieved by sleep.

Although it is most common within the first few weeks after giving birth, some women experience this for up to 12 months or more.

Symptoms might include:

  • Lack of energy which is not improved by sleep
  • Extreme tiredness
  • Trouble concentrating
  • Anxiety and depression
  • Trouble falling asleep or waking up frequently.

What causes postpartum fatigue?

Whether your body is recovering from a vaginal birth or a C-section, the physical demands of labour itself are enough to trigger postpartum fatigue. But, labour is not the only thing that can cause this.

Caring for a new baby is a full-time job; if a full-time job was 24/7 and meant getting up to nurse and tend to a screening tiny human multiple times per night. So, unfortunately, the sleep you get as a new mum is often broken and less restorative because of this.

The constant anxiety and worrying about your precious baby can also interrupt your sleep and deplete your energy levels throughout the day.

There are also a number of medical complications which can cause fatigue during the postpartum period [2].

These are:

  • Thyroid disorders
  • Anaemia
  • Cardiomytherapy
  • Mood disorder, specifically postpartum depression.

For this reason, it is important to speak to your doctor if you are experiencing extreme tiredness after giving birth. In addition to medical causes and the demands of motherhood, breastfeeding is another reason new mums might feel tired.

Why can breastfeeding make you tired?

Breastfeeding fatigue is very real, and it's not just because of those 4am feeds. Did you know that you burn up to 1000 calories per day while breastfeeding? In fact, breastfeeding mums exert up to 25 per cent of their energy to produce breast milk.

That's one hell of a workout, so it makes sense that feeding a baby might leave you feeling more than a little sleepy!

As well as using a lot of energy, nursing also triggers the release of prolactin, the main hormone involved in milk production [3]. Prolactin can increase your body's dopamine and oxytocin levels, which can also cause you to feel more relaxed and tired.

How to stay awake during breastfeeding

Staying awake while feeding is sometimes no easy feat, especially during those midnight feeds. If you're struggling to keep your eyes open while breastfeeding, there are a few ways to fight fatigue.

Don't stay in bed

Sitting in your bed while you breastfeed can trick your brain into thinking it is sleepy time, and let's face it, the middle of the night is sleepy time, so we understand the confusion.

Move outside of your bedroom and feed your baby in an upright position in a well or at least medium-lit room.

Move around

Sometimes, the simple act of moving to another space can be enough to wake you up. If you're feeling tired, try not to stay sitting in one spot for longer than 20 minutes at a time.

Sip or snack

Why should the baby be the only one snacking? Having a cold drink of water or a small snack will stimulate your metabolism and make it easier to stay awake.

Watch something

As well as keeping you entertained, watching your favourite TV show can actually keep you awake.

Looking at the light emitted from a screen can reduce melatonin, the main hormone involved in sleep. Although, if you are suffering from serious breastfeeding fatigue, maybe avoid doing this too frequently, as too little melatonin can make you even more tired [4].

Is it OK to sleep while breastfeeding?

While the occasional nod-off might happen during a feed, sleeping while breastfeeding can actually be very dangerous for your baby. If you fall asleep while feeding, you risk losing your grip on the baby.

This means you could drop them or suffocate them, and this risk is especially high while co-sleeping.

So, even though it might seem impossible, it is extremely important to stay awake while breastfeeding.

How to combat fatigue from breastfeeding

Staying awake while breastfeeding is one thing, but new mums might need to take a few extra measures to fight fatigue from breastfeeding.

Stay hydrated

Breast milk needs water to form and flow, so it is absolutely essential to ensure you're getting enough water to compensate for this. Inadequate water intake during breastfeeding means you might become dehydrated, which will only worsen the fatigue you're feeling.

Try a supplement

Sometimes you can be doing all the right things like getting adequate water, eating healthy foods and getting adequate rest, and you still feel tired. This is because breastfeeding and making your milk supply can wreak havoc on your nutritional intake, which can cause some serious low energy.

Postnatal vitamins are a great way to boost your energy level and support your nutritional deficiencies. Enter Kin's Postnatal Vitamins. Packed full of iron, B vitamins and biotin, our postnatal cure has all the building blocks mums need to fight fatigue.

Fuel your body with food

If you're looking for some natural ways to help you feel energised, eating healthy foods is one of the best ways to do it. Avoid sugary sweet treats and limit caffeine. Instead, opt for whole grains and fresh fruits full of vitamin C and natural sugars.

Think oranges, mandarins, bananas and berries, leafy greens, nuts and legumes, which are great breastfeeding foods. A protein-rich diet will also help your energy level, but instead of heavy meats, try lean white meats such as turkey and chicken and go for complex carbs.

Our body needs to stay hydrated and healthy at the best of times and this also aids in reducing bloating.

Kin's Electrolyte Powder is packed with ingredients that work together to keep you hydrated, healthy and energised. Electrolytes and Vitamin C are essential for keeping your water levels up and for providing essential nutrients to support your body’s mineral and fluid balance.

Exercise

You're probably thinking, I'm too tired for exercise, but did you know that a light to moderate workout can help you regain energy?

We're not suggesting you take off for a 10km run, but a short walk in the fresh air will lower your stress levels and leave you feeling a lot more energised. Plus, it's a great way to ease back into exercise in the postpartum period.

Breastfeeding Essentials

Easy solutions for breast discomfort and breastfeeding challenges
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Postnatal - 1 Month Supply

Designed to address postpartum depletion and support the nutritional needs of new mothers
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