Is it normal to still feel so tired, even though I had my baby several weeks ago?
Yes. Feeling tired is one of new moms' most common complaints, and unfortunately, fatigue can last for months. After all, your body is recuperating from the incredible physical challenge of pregnancy and childbirth. (And if you had a c-section, you're also recovering from major abdominal surgery.)
At the same time, you're now caring for a newborn who needs hands-on attention around the clock, so what sleep you do get is probably fragmented and less restorative.
How long you feel so tired also depends on factors like how well your baby sleeps, whether you're able to adjust your schedule to his, the amount of support you have at home, and whether you have the added demands of work outside the home.
What can I do to cope with fatigue?
Your priority right now is saving energy for yourself, your baby, and your other children. That may mean relaxing your standards a little (or a lot) when it comes to chores like housecleaning. Conserving your energy now means you're more likely to have it in the long run.
Here are some strategies to try:
- Get all the rest you can. Try to go to bed at night soon after your baby is settled. (Or better yet, go to bed early and have your partner take the evening baby care shift.) And nap when your baby does during the day (or at least put your feet up and close your eyes). If you're breastfeeding, lie on your side to nurse your baby, so you can really relax during some feedings. Just make sure that your baby can't fall if you get drowsy.
- Ask friends and family to help with specific tasks, like running errands, doing chores, cooking meals, watching your other children, or caring for the baby while you lie down for a bit.
- Consider hiring a postpartum doula or a night nurse, if you can. Having someone experienced in mother and newborn care come to your home to run errands and help with housework, cooking, and childcare gives you plenty of chances to rest. A night nurse cares for your baby during the night, giving you a chance to sleep.
- Be selective about guests. And remember that it's perfectly fine to tell even your family or the best of friends that you're just too tired for a visit or an extended stay right now.
- Take every opportunity to rest, even when you have visitors. Your family and friends will understand if they have to entertain themselves.
- Don't skip meals, and try to make healthy food choices with foods that provide sustained energy, like those high in complex carbohydrates and protein. Don't rely on caffeine and sweets for a quick pick-up.
- Drink plenty of fluids.
- Continue taking prenatal vitamins, especially if you're breastfeeding.
- Get some exercise by taking your baby out for a walk – the fresh air and movement may help you both sleep better at night. Start out slowly and only go for a short distance at first. As you regain your strength, you can gradually step up your pace and distance.
When should I call my healthcare provider?
Call your provider right away if you can't sleep, have lost interest in doing things you enjoy, or feel despair – you could have postpartum depression. Your provider can refer you to a therapist for an evaluation if necessary. Ignoring signs of postpartum depression can lead to more severe symptoms.
Anemia can also contribute to fatigue, especially if you lost a lot of blood during delivery. Ask your provider if you should be tested for iron deficiency.
Postpartum fatigue can sometimes be a symptom of an underactive thyroid gland, also known as hypothyroidism. A small percentage of women develop this treatable condition four to eight months after giving birth. Talk to your provider if your fatigue gets worse around this time.