Being a mom makes you tired, but if you're a breastfeeding mom, you might find that you are even sleepier than usual. Obviously, being your child's only source of nourishment is especially exhausting when you're up every two hours, but does breastfeeding make you tired for another reason, too?
When I was breastfeeding my daughter, I always found myself getting a little drowsy. At first, I chalked it up to the snuggling that happened between the two of us when she was hungry. I was usually pretty comfy on the couch or in bed with her little warm body nestled against me, and I would instantly feel relaxed. In fact, I've been known to doze off so much while my baby was nursing, that I had to make sure we were in a safe area just in case she didn't fall asleep with me.
If you've ever felt the same way with breastfeeding, you can thank science for it. Turns out that breastfeeding does make you sleepy and it has nothing to do with being up all night or being extra comfy with your babe. According to Baby Center, after you deliver your baby and placenta, your body triggers the release of a hormone called prolactin, and it's responsible for signaling your body to actually make your breast milk.
But prolactin can cause something else — drowsiness. According to Parents, prolactin can make you feel sleepy, and because it is suckling-induced, it can cause you to feel relaxed. La Leche League also notes that this hormone creates a special calmness in mothers, allowing you to fully unwind and feel at ease, helping you drift off to sleep.
Although falling asleep while nursing can be a sweet, tender moment, it's not always feasible or safe. In order to stay energized during breastfeeding, try these five tips so you don't find yourself nodding off every time you feed your baby. In fact, some of these you can even do while your baby eats, helping you to stay even more alert during those cozy sessions.
1. Stay Hydrated
You need to stay hydrated while you're breastfeeding anyway, but keeping up with your fluids can also help your energy levels. According to Men's Health, dehydration can make you feel fatigued and ruin your bodily functions throughout the day. A tip that worked for me? Every time you sit down to feed your baby, take a glass of water with you. You can drink in between feedings, too, but as a busy mom, you're bound to forget. Just make sure to always have a drink with you when it's time to nurse, and you'll hit your water intake for sure.
2. Sit In The Sun
If you have a favorite spot on your deck or back porch, take your next feeding session there and soak up some rays. Research has found that while you should protect yourself from sun exposure, there are major benefits to sitting in the sun, including increasing your energy levels, especially if you're indoors a majority of the time. Enjoying full sunlight can help your melatonin rhythm, improving your energy and sleep quality, which is bound to help. Also, soaking up that extra vitamin D is good for your baby, too. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention note that breast milk is not always an adequate supplementation of vitamin D, and your little one could use some sunshine to keep their levels up. Two birds, one sun.
3. Eat Well
You don't have to eat like Gwyneth Paltrow, but you do need to eat well while you're breastfeeding and to help with your energy. Don't skip breakfast, don't munch on sugary snacks all day, and try not to rely so much on simple carbs. CNN recommends eating protein, carbohydrates like whole grains, fiber, omega-3 fats (like those found in salmon, leafy greens, and tuna), and keeping snacks around to increase your energy. If you can't find the time to eat during the day, try and stock up a basket of quick snacks and one-handed meals, like hummus wraps full of veggies and protein or hard-boiled eggs. When you breastfeed, grab something out of the container so you're getting those calories in and keeping your energy up.
4. Stay Active
I know, you're already exhausted, but staying active can actually help you feel more alert. You don't have to bust out the exercise routines or weights either. If you can manage a quick walk around your block, that will help a ton. One study found that people who are often sedentary can decrease their fatigue by 65 percent with a low-intensity exercise like walking or aerobics.
5. Skip The Chores
Sleep when baby sleeps? Yeah, you've heard it before, but it can seriously help. Instead of worrying about catching up on all the sleep you've missed, go for a short 20 to 30 minute nap. According to the National Sleep Foundation, these short naps can actually help with short-term fatigue as they don't interfere with your night time sleeping and can improve your alertness without making you feel groggy. Skip the dishwasher or laundry for half an hour and take a power nap instead to maximize your energy.