Giving birth and caring for a newborn is such an arduous and exhausting task. There is even a term for the extreme exhaustion that mothers experience after birth: postpartum fatigue. The chaotic combination of the challenges of labor and delivery, the lack of sleep, and the stresses of caring for a newborn can lead to extreme physical and emotional exhaustion.
It’s no surprise, really. Pregnancy was no walk in the park (your body grew a human!) and results in nutrient depletion. Labor and delivery can leave your body in pain with bruises, soreness, tearing, and wounds. Then, you come home, still sore and recovering, to care for a brand new baby. The uncertainty of caring for a tiny baby and figuring out breastfeeding can leave many new mothers anxious and physically and emotionally drained. Studies indicate that fatigue typically peaks around 2-4 days after birth and continues to be high for the first month. It then declines to a relatively “manageable” level by 6 weeks postpartum (1,2,3).
No matter how prepared you may be, some amount of fatigue is normal and expected. Luckily, there are measures you can take to help get your energy back sooner after birth:
Prioritize rest - Your main focus in the early postpartum weeks should be resting to allow your body to recover from pregnancy and delivery. Your body took 9 months to create a baby, so be patient and take every opportunity to rest, whether it’s with your baby, or asking your family, partner, or friend to watch the baby while you rest. Even 20 minutes of shut-eye can have a positive effect on your cognitive function and energy.
Take a shower - I know this one is easier said than done, but taking the time to shower and clean your body can help rejuvenate you emotionally and physically!
Get some sunlight - It’s easy to get cooped up in the first few weeks of having a baby, but getting some sunlight, whether it’s through sitting next to an open window or going for a short stroll, can help boost your energy and improve your vitamin D levels.
Low-impact exercise - It may sound counterintuitive to exercise when you’re feeling exhausted, but once you are cleared by your doctor, even short 5-minute intervals of exercise can help! Moving your body can boost your energy by increasing circulation and the release of endorphins. Start slow by walking around the block, going longer only when you feel ready.
Stay hydrated - Keeping up with hydration is important, especially if you’re breastfeeding. Carrying around a water bottle, or having a glass of water every time your baby eats are good reminders to drink frequently. Aim to consume half of your body weight in ounces, plus another 24 ounces.
Eat nutritious meals - Between your body recovering from birth and breastfeeding, your body is burning a lot more calories than you think. Make sure you are fueling your body with nutritious meals and snacks. Breastfeeding mothers are generally encouraged to consume 300-500 more calories per day. Overwhelmed with how you can eat well? Ask for help picking up or cooking meals, and stash your fridge and pantry with easy-to-grab high-protein snacks for breastfeeding sessions.
It is especially important for postpartum mothers to eat meals that are high in:
Iodine (important for brain, thyroid, and metabolic health) - seaweed, seafood, cold water fish.
Fiber (helps with constipation) - fruits, vegetables, beans.
Nourishing fats (replenish fats, important for baby’s brain and nervous system development and for mom's good mood too!) - grass-fed butter, lard, ghee, tallow, olives, olive oil, avocados, fatty fish, pork, coconut products, nuts and seeds.
Antioxidants (protects the body from free radicals damaging our cells) - berries, bright-colored plants, Vitamin C and E.
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Take supplements - It is very challenging to keep up with the energy demands of breastfeeding and recovering from birth, so taking supplements can ensure that you are getting all of the nutrients that your body needs. The truth is, excellent nutrient-dense meals alone cannot guarantee a smooth postpartum recovery or nursing period. Pregnancy can leave you especially nutrient-depleted, so taking supplements are recommended to maintain your energy and replenish your body. (3)
Here are the supplements I recommend:
Postnatal Supplement - Taking a comprehensive postnatal supplement that includes DHA, iodine, and choline can help your body increase your overall nutrient intake to make sure you can recover from birth and support you in breastfeeding.
DHA - DHA is important in brain function and can help DHA-deficient postpartum women improve mood and clarity in cognitive function and continue to support baby’s developing brain and nervous system. Mom-brain anyone? It is recommended to take a high-quality daily supplement that contains 150 to 300 mg of DHA.
Collagen - An essential nutrient that helps to heal the gut and tissues that were affected during pregnancy and birth. This includes your ligaments, tendons, skin, vaginal tissue, abdominal tissue and more.
Probiotics - Probiotics help promote a healthy balance of good bacteria in the gut, and are especially helpful for women who have had cesarean deliveries or taken antibiotics. Probiotics can also help your baby, they have been reported to help minimize eczema, colic, and other digestive issues in infants (3). Different strains can help with different issues, which is why we offer a whole line of probiotics to support you all-around.
Vitamin D - The majority of Americans are Vitamin D deficient, so it is important for nursing mothers to take supplements in order to pass on the necessary levels to their baby. The recommended dose is 6,400IU of Vitamin D3 for nursing mothers, which is much higher than what is offered in traditional multivitamins. (3)
Ashwagandha, an adaptogen herb – Research has shown that adaptogen herbs can help improve thyroid function (4), support adrenal function (5), stabilize blood sugar levels (6), and reduce depression and anxiety. All of which can affect your energy levels. Supporting your adrenals can do wonders for your energy levels. As an added bonus, ashwagandha can also help boost your milk supply! (7). Read about our organic Ashwagandha extract!
Because I know how busy you are, I’ve done all the legwork in finding (or creating) the best supplements for new mothers. Check out my online store to find highly absorbable forms of Ashwagandha, Vitamin D3, Omega 3 with DHA and EPA, our Prenatal/Postnatal multivitamin and a whole line of probiotics to choose from.
If extreme fatigue persists even with nutritious meals, supplementation, and rest, there may be another reason. Contact your doctor to figure out if there’s an underlying medical issue that needs addressing, such as postpartum depression, inflammation/infection, anemia (low iron in the blood) or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid gland), which are all very common in the postpartum period.
If you need help figuring out the best way to take care of your postpartum body through holistic nutrition, we can help!
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What are some ways you have found that give you an energy boost? Share in the comment section below! You can also share this post by clicking next to the title.
Content found on this website is not considered medical advice. Please consult with a physician before making any medical or lifestyle changes.
1. Webster B. Maternal fatigue during the postpartum period. Ottawa: National Library of Canada = Bibliothèque nationale du Canada; 1995.
2. Iwata H et al. Course of maternal fatigue and its associated factors during the first 6 months postpartum: a prospective cohort study. Nursing Open. 2018;5:186-196.
3. Nichols L. Real food for pregnancy: The science and wisdom of optimal prenatal nutrition. Lily Nichols; 2018.
4. Kalani A, Bahtiyar G, Sacerdote A. Ashwagandha root in the treatment of non-classical adrenal hyperplasia. Case Reports. 2012;2012:bcr2012006989-bcr2012006989.
5. Panda S, Kar A. Changes in Thyroid Hormone Concentrations after Administration of Ashwagandha Root Extract to Adult Male Mice. Journal of Pharmacy and Pharmacology. 1998;50:1065-1068.
6. Najmi A, Mohd A, Mohd A, Mohd M, Pillai K, Khan V. A pharmacological appraisal of medicinal plants with antidiabetic potential. Journal of Pharmacy and Bioallied Sciences. 2012;4:27.
7. Simpson A. Boost Your Breast Milk: An All-In-One Guide For Nursing Mothers To Build A Healthy Milk Supply. New York: The Experiment; 2017.