You knew the newborn days would be exhausting, but should you really feel this tired? You might think if breastfeeding is best for baby, why is it so hard? The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends exclusively breastfeeding babies for the first six months of life and continuing to breastfeed in addition to introducing other foods until at least a year. It isn’t just you; breastfeeding can be physically exhausting for a number of reasons.
1. Time Commitment
Breastfeeding requires a significant time commitment on the mom’s part. A newborn nurses anywhere from every one-and-a-half hours to every three hours according to the AAP. That means your baby eats eight to 12 times a day during the first few weeks of life. Breastmilk digests quicker than formula, which is good and bad. Breastfed babies have fewer bouts of constipation or diarrhea, but need to eat more often than formula-fed babies according to KidsHealth. You are solely responsible for feeding baby until three to four weeks of age when you or someone else can begin to offer a bottle of pumped milk. Dr. Sears recommends waiting until that age to avoid nipple confusion, where the baby mixes up the proper sucking technique for the breast versus the bottle. Even then, your baby might refuse the bottle, leaving nursing as your only option. If you work, you’ll also need to find time to pump bottles of breastmilk for your baby.
2. Calories Burned
A mom who is exclusively breastfeeding needs an additional 300 to 500 calories a day above what she consumed pre-pregnancy according to the website kellymom.com. This is the equivalent of an extra one to two healthy snacks a day. It’s important to listen to your body while nursing and eat nutritious snacks when you feel hungry. Without the proper calories, you’ll have a hard time finding the energy necessary to care for and breastfeed your baby.
Breastfeeding moms face a number of potential difficulties in nursing their babies that can cause stress. In addition to the initial difficulties of getting your baby to latch onto your nipple properly and figuring out the logistics of nursing, breastfeeding mothers might also deal with sore nipples, engorgement, breast infections and nursing strikes according to womenshealth.gov. All of these problems can lead to stress, which makes you more likely to get sick and face issues such as sleep troubles, stomach problems, headaches and mental health conditions.
4. Finding Help
If you do feel physically exhausted after the initial few weeks of breastfeeding, it is important to seek help to deal with any issues that might be contributing to your exhaustion. You can start by talking to your pediatrician’s office. The office might refer you to a lactation consultant in the area if necessary. You can also join breastfeeding support groups to talk with other moms who might be experiencing similar feelings. La Leche League International is also a great resource for breastfeeding moms. The organization comprises certified lactation consultants as well as other mothers to assist in breastfeeding.
- American Academy of Pediatrics: Breastfeeding Initiatives
- AskDrSears: Getting Baby to Take Bottle
- KidsHealth: Breastfeeding vs. Formula Feeding
- Kellymom.com: Do Breastfeeding Moms Need Extra Calories or Fluid?
- Womenshealth.gov: Breastfeeding - Handling Stress
- Womenshealth.gov: Breastfeeding - Common Breastfeeding Challenges
- WebMD: Your Guide to Breastfeeding
- La Leche League International: All About La Leche League
- Comstock Images/Comstock/Getty Images