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.
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.
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!
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.