Sleep deprivation comes with the territory of meeting your baby's nutritional needs. Some mothers who breastfeed believe that nursing is draining and leads to sleepiness. However, at least two studies suggest that feeling tired has little, if anything, to do with breastfeeding. An infant's demanding feeding schedule can leave the mother of a breast or bottle-fed baby weary-eyed.
A French study published in May 2006 in the Journal of Human Lactation found that although mothers associate tiredness with breastfeeding -- to the point that some have stopped nursing -- postpartum fatigue is a normal condition that few mothers escape. More than 200 women participated in a study that looked into whether perceived fatigue differed for formula-feeding and breastfeeding women at roughly three days, six weeks and 12 weeks postpartum. Study results found little difference between the two groups, leading researchers to conclude that no connection exists between perceived fatigue and feeding choice in the first few months after childbirth.
With an infant in the house, a mom can be hard pressed to string together six to eight hours sleep at night, whether she is breastfeeding or not, notes the March of Dimes website. A study published in November 2010 in the journal Pediatrics suggests that new mothers who breastfeed get about the same amount of sleep as mothers who formula-feed their babies. The study involved 80 new moms who kept daily sleep journals and wore devices that calculated how many hours they slept at night. The participants' sleep patterns were monitored for 10 weeks, starting two weeks after birth.
Breastfeeding mothers can experience infection-related fatigue to which moms who formula-feed are not susceptible. Fatigue is one of the symptoms of a condition called mastitis, explains a publication from The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists entitled "Frequently Asked Questions -- Labor, Delivery And Postpartum Care." Mastitis occurs when a solid knot develops in a breast due to a clogged milk duct. Milk ducts can become clogged when leftover breast milk is not drained. Applying a heating pad or taking a warm shower can prevent a milk duct from getting clogged and encourage milk to flow freely. Talk to your doctor if your suspect you've developed mastitis. A prescription medication can clear up the infection.
Getting as much sleep as possible can help restore your energy level. Even a quick nap can help. Close the shades or drapes, turn off your television and phone and sleep while your baby is napping. Allow yourself to become a little lax when it comes to household chores. Sleep is more important right now than tossing in another load of laundry or mopping the kitchen floor. Your number one concern is taking care of your baby and yourself.
- WebMD: Breastfeeding Moms Don't Sleep Less
- Journal of Human Lactation: Fatigue And Breastfeeding: An Inevitable Partnership?
- March of Dimes: New Mom Fatigue
- The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists: Frequently Asked Questions -- Labor, Delivery And Postpartum Care
- Journal Pediatrics: Infant Feeding Methods and Maternal Sleep and Daytime Functioning
- Photo Credit Polka Dot Images/Polka Dot/Getty Images