Why Is Breastfeeding Tiring?

Being a mom will no doubt leave you tired and wishing for a nap. But who knew that breastfeeding alone could make you more sleepy? Since breast milk is usually your baby’s source of sustenance, you will want to know why and how breastfeeding can affect you.

Breastfeeding is often blamed for issues like sagging breasts, vitamin D and iron deficiencies in infants, and even post-natal depression, but a lot of people don’t know if nursing is to blame for their fatigue or if it’s caused by something else.

So we’re going to get to the bottom of this mystery to find the answer about why breastfeeding is tiring and what you can do about it.

Why Breastfeeding is Tiring

New mothers will often find themselves growing drowsy as they snuggle up with their little one for a round of nursing. Once the breastfeeding begins, you might find yourself feeling pretty comfy wherever you are. You might even doze off while your baby nurses. The main reason for this wave of relaxation mothers feel during breastfeeding is due to science.

After you give birth to your baby and placenta, the body receives a signal to begin producing something called prolactin, the hormone that is responsible for triggering the production of breast milk.

However, prolactin may cause something else. Sleepiness. Prolactin will make you feel drowsy. Since it is triggered by suckling, it will also make you feel relaxed enough to wind down and fall asleep. Additionally, the hormone called oxytocin, which is the same hormone the is used to encourage bonding and love during cuddle sessions, is used in the let-down reflex.

However, even though falling asleep during breastfeeding is cute and endearing, it is not entirely safe either. That said, if you aren’t napping accidentally while breastfeeding, you might be happy to know that mothers who nurse their babies actually get more sleep than those who don’t.

One common myth is that breastfeeding mothers spend more time awake than those who use formula or bottle feed. Research has found that mothers who use formula get less sleep in the evening too. The thinking behind this is that using formula limits the effects of oxytocin and prolactin, so when mothers get up in the night to feed their babies, they tend to wake up and have more trouble getting back to sleep than those who breastfeed.

Tips For Staying Alert While Breastfeeding

Let’s have a look at some tips to help you stay awake while you are breastfeeding. While it might be tempting to take a nap or rest your eyes while nursing, remember that it isn’t the best thing to do while holding your little bundle of joy.

Stay Hydrated

If you are dehydrated, you’re going to feel really, really tired. Since you’re breastfeeding, hydration is even more important. So, if you are struggling to stay awake while you are nursing, you might want to bring a glass of water with you for when you sit down. While your baby nurses, drink something.

Get Some Sun

Although sitting out directly in the sunlight for prolonged periods is generally not healthy for the skin, getting a short burst of sunlight can be good for your energy levels. Enjoy some sunlight to get some vitamin D and adjust your melatonin levels.

Also, since your breastmilk doesn’t always contain the recommended amounts of vitamin D for your little one, nursing outside on a sunny day can help you get them all the vitamins they need.

Stay Active

Yes, you’re already tired, but if you choose to do something active, you will feel more awake. Promise. One study even found that fatigue can be reduced by 65 percent with low-intensity activities.

While you aren’t expected to go running or even break out the dumbbells, you can do a lot in a short amount of time. For example, you might take a brisk walk around outside if the weather is nice. Or you can do some chores, gardening, dancing, or whatever.

Commit to Healthy Eating

Breastfeeding mothers need an additional 300-800 calories a day to produce enough milk for their baby. If you aren’t getting enough calories, you might start feeling tired. However, you just can’t eat foods that aren’t nutritious. You can’t skip meals either.

Make sure your diet is balanced with proteins, healthy fats, and whole grains and carbohydrates. Healthy snacks, like hummus and vegetable sticks, or hard-boiled eggs and crackers, can be an energizing pick-me-up to get you through the day.

Take Quick Naps

A lot of women hear that they can sleep when the baby sleeps, and it’s true. As long as you are taking short naps throughout the day (around 20-30 minutes), you don’t have to worry about how much sleep you lose overnight.

Short naps, sometimes referred to as power naps, are proven to help relieve fatigue, and they also won’t interrupt your circadian rhythms. That means you can feel more alert throughout the day without upsetting your entire night.

Try Different Positions

Since you are going to need sleep regardless, and your baby is going to feel the safest next to you, you should try positions that allow you the maximum amount of comfort without endangering your child. The first option is lying down to breastfeed. The second option is co-sleeping.

The latter gives you the option of sleeping and feeding your baby in a secure position. That way, everyone is happy—and safe.


Mothers will feel exhausted and overwhelmed during the first few months with their baby, that much is certain. It doesn’t really matter if you are breastfeeding or bottle-feeding your baby, you are going to feel tired. That said, the hormones released can affect your fatigue levels and make you feel all the more drowsy while nursing your baby. Be sure to try some of the tips listed in this article to help you feel more alert.

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