How to Cope With Postpartum Fatigue

Tips for Fighting Exhaustion After Having a Baby

Woman sleeping with her baby sleeping beside her

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Some amount of sleep deprivation is normal for all new moms. But extreme fatigue can impair your judgment and make it more difficult—or even dangerous—to care for your child. It's important to try to prevent fatigue right from the start. Try these tips for combating fatigue and boosting your energy after having a baby.

How to Fight Postpartum Fatigue

When you feel fatigued, you may also feel weak, weary, sleepy, or dizzy. Exhaustion can also get in the way of successful breastfeeding. It may make you feel like giving up on breastfeeding. It can also lead to a low breast milk supply and mastitis (a breast infection). Consider these tips for fighting both normal and extreme fatigue after giving birth.

Seek Rest and Comfort

You've probably been told to nap when the baby naps. It's common advice because it is true. When you are in the newborn fatigue phase, rest as much as possible. Try to take a nap when your baby naps and head to bed as early as possible in the evenings.

When it's time to feed your baby, get as comfortable as you can. Sit with your feet up, or breastfeed in the side-lying or laid-back nursing position. Use pillows or cushions to support your arms so you don't need to expend extra energy.

Remember, this is temporary. The newborn period doesn't last too long—although it doesn't feel that way when you are in the thick of it. As your baby gets older and begins to sleep for longer periods, you should be able to get more rest.  

Get Help

Enlist the aid of your partner, friends, and family to take on housework, laundry, cooking, and caring for older children. When someone says, "If you need anything, let me know," take them up on it. Give specifics: Could you use a home-cooked meal? More diapers from the store? Could your friend start a load of laundry, or just hold the baby while you shower?

If you can afford it, consider hiring someone to help with the housework. Make it clear in advance that you have a newborn at home and need help with both tidying and deep cleaning. Don't feel you need to pick up the house before the house cleaners come. That is what you are paying them to do.

Let the Housework Go

If you don't have any help, let the housework go for a while if you are exhausted. You can catch up when you're feeling up to it.

It may help to remember the last stanza of Ruth Hulburt Hamilton's poem Song For a Fifth Child: "Oh, cleaning and scrubbing will wait till tomorrow, but children grow up, as I've learned to my sorrow. So quiet down, cobwebs. Dust, go to sleep. I'm rocking my baby. Babies don't keep."

Limit Visitors

Everyone wants to come to see the baby, but when you are exhausted with a newborn, you might not have the energy for entertaining. Friends and family that can help out with the house or watch the baby while you nap are a treasure. But say no to visitors who you will need to cook and care for in addition to everything else.

Prioritize Nutrition

Proper nutrition and hydration is essential. Supplementation may also be warranted, although you should check with your healthcare provider about personalized recommendations.

Eat a healthy, well-balanced diet to keep your energy level up. You'll need extra calories if you're breastfeeding, so include some high-protein snacks throughout the day. It's also important to stay hydrated. Get enough fluids and stay hydrated, especially if you are breastfeeding. Try to limit caffeine, which can be dehydrating.

Once the baby comes, you should keep taking your prenatal vitamins until you feel back to your old self. This is especially true if you are breastfeeding. You can also try brewer's yeast. Brewer's yeast is a nutritional supplement used to help fight fatigue and the baby blues. It is also believed to increase the supply of breast milk.

Move Your Body

If your doctor says it's safe to start some light exercise, taking a short walk can help you fight fatigue. Exercise can help boost your energy level and your mood. Even just a short walk with the stroller out in the fresh air can feel good. But don't overdo it and use up all your energy.

When to Call Your Doctor

If you are finding it difficult to fight off fatigue, and you continue to have no energy even with good hydration, nutrition and rest, it's time to contact your doctor. He or she can examine you to determine if something else is causing your symptoms. Other causes of fatigue include: 

  • Anemia
  • Excessive blood loss 
  • Hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland)
  • Postpartum depression
  • The use of prescription pain medication

A Word From Verywell

It's natural to feel tired in the postpartum period. Healing from childbirth, taking care of a newborn, producing breast milk, and breastfeeding every 2 to 3 hours throughout the day and night requires a lot of energy. Add taking care of a home, other children, and work responsibilities, and there's no question as to why you might feel weak, overwhelmed and exhausted. 

Fortunately, there are ways to deal with fatigue and boost your energy. Ask for the help and time you need. When you give yourself permission to take care of yourself, eat right, and get enough rest, you'll feel better able to take care of your newborn and your family.

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Article Sources
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  1. Callahan S, Séjourné N, Denis A. Fatigue and breastfeeding: an inevitable partnership?. J Hum Lact. 2006;22(2):182-7. doi:+10.1177/0890334406286972

  2. Kominiarek MA, Rajan P. Nutrition Recommendations in Pregnancy and Lactation. Med Clin North Am. 2016;100(6):1199-1215. doi:10.1016/j.mcna.2016.06.004

  3. Corwin EJ, Brownstead J, Barton N, Heckard S, Morin K. The impact of fatigue on the development of postpartum depression. J Obstet Gynecol Neonatal Nurs. 2005;34(5):577-86. doi:10.1177/0884217505279997

Additional Reading
  • American Academy of Pediatrics. New Mother’s Guide To Breastfeeding. New York, NY: Bantam Books; 2011.

  • Amir LH. ABM clinical protocol #4: Mastitis, revised March 2014. Breastfeed Med. 2014;9(5):239-43.

  • Lawrence RA and Lawrence RN. Breastfeeding: A Guide For The Medical Profession. 8th ed. New York, NY: Elsevier Health Sciences; 2015.