How to Cope with Postpartum Fatigue
Taking care of yourself helps give you the energy to care for — and enjoy — your baby.
Fatigue is a completely normal part of being a new parent. Not only are you recovering from childbirth, but you're also dealing with the needs and demands of a newborn. Your sense of wellbeing plays a big role in how confident you are that you’re doing a good job.
There is no magic cure for fatigue, but making changes in your lifestyle may help. Paying attention to your diet and activity level, as well as finding ways to relax are all important factors.
“Me time” tough to find?
Try to sleep or rest when your baby sleeps. Consider letting him sleep at least part of the night in his own room so restless noises don’t keep you awake. A baby monitor may help give you peace of mind.
If you’re nursing, let your partner change diapers and resettle the baby after nighttime feedings. In general, breastfeeding is preferred, but sometimes bottle feeding is necessary.
Stay hydrated. Dehydration can feel like fatigue. A good rule of thumb for nursing mothers is to drink a glass of water for every feeding. Limit sugary drinks, which may add calories but no nutrition.
Your body is healing. If you’re breastfeeding, your body is also working to produce enough calories to nourish your baby. Make sure to supplement regular, balanced meals with healthy snacks. Fruits, vegetables, whole grains, low-fat or fat-free dairy and lean protein, nuts, seeds and legumes are all good choices.
Each week, nursing mothers should try to eat a variety of fish lower in mercury. That’s three or four servings of fish like salmon, shrimp, pollock, tuna (light canned), tilapia, catfish or cod. Breastfeeding moms should also avoid eating fish with high mercury levels like tilefish, shark, swordfish, and king mackerel, and try to limit white (albacore) tuna to 6 ounces a week.
Try to get exercise
You may not realize it, but daily exercise can raise your energy level and boost your sense of wellbeing. It may also help restore muscle strength and help you maintain or lose weight.
Moderate-intensity physical activity, such as brisk walking, may help improve your mood. Walking is also good because you can take your baby along and don’t need to find childcare. However, be sure to talk to your doctor about what kinds and amounts of activities are right for you and whether it’s appropriate for you to take your baby into crowds.
Tap your support network
If family and friends ask to help, give them a household chore to do. Let them care for your newborn while you take a nap or a bath.
Think about hiring a babysitter and staying home in another room. Or catch up with a friend or your partner. Time away from baby can help you enjoy your parenting time.
The “baby blues” and beyond
Fatigue is normal, but being overly tired may signal postpartum depression or physical conditions such as anemia. Call your doctor if you feel tired, sad or overwhelmed for more than a few days. And remember to talk about your mood and energy level at your postpartum appointment.
By Beth Hawkins, Contributing Writer
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Your Pregnancy and Childbirth: Month to month. 6th ed. Washington, DC: ACOG; 2015.
American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. Getting in shape after your baby is born. Accessed: June 30, 2016.
March of Dimes. New mom fatigue. Accessed: June 30, 2016.
U.S. Department of Agriculture. ChooseMyPlate.gov. Health and nutrition information for pregnant and breastfeeding women. Accessed: June 30, 2016.
Last Updated: June 30, 2016