7 Reasons Why New Moms Are So Tired, And What To Do About It
The entire pregnancy/having a baby thing is a trip. From the very beginning, your body goes through massive changes, and each stage brings new and exciting developments. And awful developments, let’s be honest. You’re pregnant for SO LONG, and then suddenly you have this tiny little baby to care for! But you go from hugely pregnant to being a mom in a matter of hours, with very little time to get your bearings. Once the baby arrives, you automatically kick into mom mode. It’s difficult, overwhelming, and scary. So it’s no wonder new moms are so tired! But it’s not just lack of sleep that’s contributing to your exhaustion. There are some surprising reasons new moms are running on fumes, but there are things you can do to help.
1. Childbirth is rough, and postpartum recovery takes a long time! New moms are dealing with a lot in those first weeks.
Whether you had a vaginal delivery or a c-section, your body has just gone through an incredibly brutal thing. Yes, it’s beautiful, but yikes. The physical toll is massive. Most doctors will tell you it takes 6 – 8 weeks to heal after childbirth. Which is true! To an extent. It takes about that long for your uterus to return to its pre-pregnancy size, but as we all know, that’s a drop in the bucket. For a lot of women, the physical recovery involves so much more than a shrinking uterus.
Aside from the physical recovery, our mental and emotional health also needs time to recover and heal. For some new moms, this can mean adjusting to the hormone drop after childbirth. For others, it can mean accepting that their birth plan didn’t work as planned, and working through those feelings.
New moms need time to heal, physically and emotionally. Think about the last time you were really sick: if you did too much the moment you started to feel better, your body was like, NOPE. Childbirth and postpartum recovery is not an illness, but we need to allow our bodies and minds to heal, and this means being gentle with ourselves in those crucial first weeks.
2. Your brain is on overdrive.
Research shows that women’s brains respond differently to a baby’s cries than a man’s brain. When we hear a baby cry, our brains kicks into hyper-alert mode. It’s a constant state of alertness, which can be a mental and physical drain. Babies cry a lot, especially in the beginning, and eventually new moms figure out which cries mean what, and can relax a bit. But early on, finding a way to relax and de-stress can be incredibly helpful. Some moms find meditation works for them. Others need to take a step back, put on some noise-cancelling headphones, and let their partner or a friend or family member man the ship for a while. Do what you need to do to disconnect for a little bit everyday.
3. Sleep is a luxury, and new moms don’t get a whole lot of it.
Women need 20 minutes more sleep than men, on average. But as we all know, once a baby arrives, sleep is a luxury that not many of us get! It seems pretty obvious that our exhaustion stems from lack of sleep. Babies run on a totally different schedule, and while the old adage “sleep when the baby sleeps” is a nice idea, it’s not always doable. If you have a job, or other children, you can’t just plop down for a nap 5-6 times a day. But there are some ways you can catch up on those lost zzzz’s, and fight off the exhaustion of new motherhood.
Try going to bed at least 20 minutes earlier than you normally would. Sleeping with the baby nearby, like in a bassinet in your room, can cut down on your middle-of-the-night awake time. Co-sleeping is still controversial to a lot of parents and experts, but I found that having my youngest in bed with me helped me get so much more sleep than having her sleep in her own room. And if you can, take at least one nap a day while the baby is sleeping. You might lose a couple of hours of productivity, but you’ll feel better and more rested.
4. Self-care is important, and a lot of new moms aren’t getting enough of it.
It’s so easy to get caught up in caring for the new baby, that we forget to care for ourselves. And moms, especially new moms, need some self-care in a major way. Take some time for you, mama. Doesn’t matter what you do, do whatever will make you happy! But carve out a little time just for you everyday.
5. Moms work an insane amount of hours everyday. And if you’re a working mom? Psssssh, forget it.
A recent study showed that moms spend, on average, 98 hours a week doing child-related duties. And that’s just time spent being a parent! Plenty of new moms have to go back to their other jobs shortly after their babies are born. We’re working CONSTANTLY. Exhausted? Doesn’t even begin to cover it. Make sure you’re taking as many breaks as you can, even when you’re just home with the baby. 10 minutes to recharge can do wonders.
6. Breastfeeding takes a lot of energy!
Exclusive breastfeeding requires about 500 calories a day, and if you’re not nourishing your body, you can quickly become depleted. Make sure you’re getting enough to eat and drink. It can be hard to find the time to sit down and eat, but these breastfeeding snacks are a great option!
7. Sometimes, your exhaustion could be the sign of a more serious problem.
While it’s completely normal for new moms to feel exhausted, if you find that you’re exhausted weeks after the baby arrives and nothing you do or try is helping, there could be an underlying issue.
Anemia is a common issue that new moms face postpartum. Low iron in your blood can leave you feeling rundown, and other symptoms can include dizziness and an elevated heart rate. If you were anemic before pregnancy, or are concerned about anemia after childbirth, your doctor can order a simple blood test. The good news is, changes in diet or supplements will help in most cases!
Exhaustion that doesn’t seem to let up, no matter what you, may be a sign of postpartum depression. It could be that the depression is causing you to be tired, or being tired is contributing to your depression. Either way, you’re not alone. As many as 25% of new moms will experience PPD or PPA. If you’re feeling like you just can’t get out of this fog, talk to your doctor, a friend, or your partner. There are so many resources available to you!
Welcome to motherhood! It’s a wild ride. But don’t worry, new moms. It really does get better.
(Image: How I Met Your Mother)