Breastfeeding And Tiredness: Can Breastfeeding Make You Tired?

Breastfeeding And Tiredness: Can Breastfeeding Make You Tired?

Being a mother can be tiring and exhausting, that’s for sure. But are breastfeeding and tiredness linked together?

Can breastfeeding actually be a cause of intense tiredness and fatigue? Breastfeeding cops its fair share of flack, that’s for sure.

It can be blamed for many things, such as tooth decay, saggy breasts, infant vitamin D or iron deficiency or post-natal depression.

But, it’s not that simple. There’s always more to the story.

Some people think breastfeeding can make mothers feel exhausted and fatigued. Is there any truth to it?

Breastfeeding and Tiredness

Is breastfeeding really what makes mothers extra tired?

Or is it just being a mother in general that can be exhausting?

Well, I think it’s the latter, and here are 3 reasons why:

#1: Being A Mother Can Be Exhausting Regardless Of How A Baby Is Fed

As a mother, have you ever felt like you’ve done so much yet also done ‘nothing’ at all? On some days, simply getting dressed, going to the toilet or showering can feel like a real effort. If you happen to get any housework done, well, you’re a pro!

Before having a baby, getting household chores done — such as unloading the dishwasher — may have taken around five minutes. But as a mother, a complete day to get the dishwater unloaded seems more realistic!

Days at home with a newborn are often particularly exhausting. You get ‘nothing’ done because you’re too busy spending every waking moment feeding, changing nappies and trying to settle your baby.

While breastfeeding in the early weeks often takes longer than feeding a baby a bottle, with bottle feeding, there’s also the sterilisation and preparation that add plenty of time to the bottle feeding process.

However, once your baby is older, it’s not all a piece of cake.

Rather, there will just be new challenges. Once your baby is on the move (e.g. crawling or walking), watch out! He’ll then be able to undo everything you do all day. For example, he will be able to unfold any nicely folded laundry, throw your lovingly prepared meals on the floor or use crayons to draw all over your clean cupboards, floor or walls.

Needless to say, at the end of the day, you’re buggered.

At the end of the day when your partner comes home after a ‘tiring’ day at work, you’re bleary eyed, about to burst into tears and still in your pyjamas. There’s toys, dirty clothes and food scraps scattered across the living room floor, as well as dirty hand marks over the walls.

Yep, I reckon that’s exhausting, no matter how your baby is fed.

#2: Breastfeeding Mothers May Actually Get More Sleep

As a breastfeeding mother, you get less sleep, right? Well, actually, no.

It’s a myth that formula feeding or mixed feeding means you get more sleep than if you exclusively breastfeed. In fact, research shows mothers who formula feed or mixed feed actually get less sleep overall than mothers who exclusively breastfeed, and that it generally takes longer to get back to sleep.

So, when you watch for the umpteenth time to breastfed your baby at night, remember that the grass isn’t greener or easier on the other side.

#3: Your Basal Metabolic Rate Doesn’t Increase When Breastfeeding

You may have been told you feel more tired because your basal metabolic rate (BMR) increases due to breastfeeding. BMR accounts for 50-80% of your daily energy needs – it’s the energy needed to sustain you at rest.

Breastfeeding mothers need higher caloric needs (approximately 300-500 extra calories) than what they required before being pregnant, because it takes energy to make milk. The conversion of food energy into breastmilk is actually more than 80% efficient. This is because part of the energy (fat) stored during pregnancy is used to make milk.

However, breastfeeding mothers’ BMR stays about the same as it was before being pregnant. So, it’s false that breastfeeding makes mothers tired by increasing their BMR.

So, even if it’s not breastfeeding per se that causes exhaustion, here are a couple tips that you may find helpful when breastfeeding:

#1: Breastfeed Lying Down

Lying down to breastfeed allows you to rest at the same time as feed your baby.

There are many other potential benefits to breastfeeding lying down too, as you can read about here.

#2: Co-Sleeping

Parents need sleep. But since babies need to eat often and feel most secure when close to their mother, how can everyone get enough sleep?

Well, for many mothers, co-sleeping is the way they get the sleep they need. Baby gets fed, feels secure and settles more easily, and mama gets more sleep. Winning!

Read about the many benefits of co-sleeping and here to help you work out whether co-sleeping may work for you.

Being a mother, regardless how your baby is fed, can be exhausting. It’s not just breastfeeding mothers who can feel overwhelmed and exhausted. It’s normal for all mothers to feel this way.

Other things you can check if you feel excessively tired are your iron levels (ferritin), water intake and activity level. While it can be difficult to get active when you have a baby (especially while they are newborn!), the less you move, the more tired you can feel. Movement can actually “wake” your body up.

If you’re healthy and well, enjoying daily walks with your baby in a pram or baby carrier might help to give you a bit of an energy boost – but don’t push yourself! If you’re dehydrated, you may feel sluggish with poor concentration too, so keep the water intake up. But let’s not forget – sleep deprivation can really mess with your energy levels. Steal any moments you can to have a nap.

Avoid eating processed grains and foods with a high added sugar content, which cause your blood sugar levels to spike, followed by a crash, making you feel even worse.

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Renee Kam is a mother of two daughters, an International Board Certified Lactation Consultant (IBCLC), a physiotherapist, author of 'The Newborn Baby Manual' and an Australian Breastfeeding Association Counsellor. In her spare time, Renee enjoys spending time with family and friends, horse riding, running and reading.


  1. This is ridiculous. Of course producing 30 ml of milk per day for years is mire exhausting than feeding formula. It is an enormous drain in the body

    1. 30ml? More like 1000ml or more. Baby diapers are heavy after three hours of wearing, combine all diapers used in a day and you end up with a kilo or more! Babies eat A LOT!

  2. I have breastfed two children and disagree. Breastfeeding is a massive drain on the body and can leave you feeling wiped out. For me, the most exhausting part came from age one onwards. Despite good nutrition and resting during naps etc, I felt permanently tired. Once I’d stopped, I got all my energy back and felt ‘normal’ again. Cosleeping doesn’t always mean more sleep. If anything, it can encourage your baby/toddler to feed all night. I mostly slept through this but I always used to wake up desperate for a drink and feeling completely drained.

  3. Oh they took the flip off emoji out. Oh well. This article is ridiculous without a doubt. I will never put down another mother for how she feeds her baby but if you think we breastfeeding mothers get more rest, you’re crazy. If you think it is not exhausting for our bodies to create the milk, you’re crazy.

  4. I am absolutely shattered and feel like a zombie pretty much 24/7. This is my 4th time breastfeeding and have been tempted to move on to bottle feeding as all my friends who bottle feed have their shit together and are never tired. Where as me, i am constantly feeding all day and night! And i co sleep with my child and he always wakes up at least 3 or 4 times in the night, i literally let him latch on and then i fall straight back to sleep. But of course i never go in a deep sleep so really how much am i really sleeping one thing’s​ for sure…. Breastfeeding is hard work on the mother’s body, no doubt!

  5. Oh dear, what a load of rubbish. I am wiped out breastfeeding and it’s been the same with both my children, my son is 4 months old now and I go to sleep at 8pm-ish, I only do 2 night feeds after his 7pm feed and I’m just knackered all the time. I’m struggling, and this is nothing to do with being a mother and doing the washing up yada yada yada!!!! It’s my baby draining me of nutrients. I eat healthy and get lots of rest and I’m still really tired all the time, my partner gets up for the night feeds with me and he is fine, he’s not feeling tired and he gets less sleep than me. I actually felt worse with my first born, I used to wake up with aching joints too and found it painful to walk, luckily I don’t have that this time but I know it all goes away once baby is weaned. I just continue to get as much rest as possible.

  6. being a mother is 24/7 job especially if you have a baby with health issues. I breastfeed on demand. First 2 months, I was sleeping less than 4h per day and felt very great. due to hormones may be… Most probably because of Co-sleeping and also she was 15-20 min on the breast only. When she turned 3 months, she would spend 45 min on the breast and come back every 1.5-2h. The more she grows, the more milk she needs… the more weaker I feel. I started supplementing her with some formula time to time to keep her full. I do not agree with article at all… I feel like no much time or energy left there for me. I am on snacks mostly. If I am lucky, I get time for breakfast + 1 express meal + 2 snacks. I try to drink more liquids.
    Breastfeeding take lots of patience, lots of time&energy… And lots of sacrifice too since you may need to go on special diet to meet your baby.needs… Do not give up no matter how hard it is. it is the most noble action. Remember, when you breastfeed you are saving 2 generations.

  7. Thank you to the ladies who commented at making me feel normal. At 19months in most days I feel absolutely shattered before lunchtime. I have no close friends or family that have breastfed this long so no one I feel truly understands at how freaking tired I can feel.

  8. My boy is now almost 8mo. And I breast feed all day all night. Suddenly feeling extreme fatigue. I feel i have not been drinking enough water so that may he something to do with plus him taking all my nutrients, I’m still on post natal vitamins. For now I’ll be giving him some formula so I can get my strength back! Also I stopped working out, which did help me tremendously with my first born when I felt like this, so I’ll try and get back to getting some exercise in.

  9. Don’t normally feel the need to comment on articles I read but this is so wrong I have to comtribute.
    I completely disagree, it is exhausting! Don’t know who wrote this but obviously they have no experience in breastfeeding!

  10. Thank you so much ladies for your comments. It’s so comforting to know that I am not the only one that is experiencing extreme fatigue from producing 30 ounces of breast milk a day for 5 months now. I feel like I’m still pregnant I’m so tired. I’m an exclusive pumper.

  11. I am almost 40 this is my third baby by surprise. I thought something was wrong with me because I am so tired I did this in my early 20’s with no problem now my baby is 4 months old and I had to quit my job I am so tired from breastfeeding. Don’t get me wrong I don’t want formula for her but oh my goodness I need two naps a day because I am so exhausted so thank you for your comments I feel like I am not crazy

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