Let's be honest: Breastfeeding exhausts me

Let's be honest: Breastfeeding exhausts me

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Why didn't anyone tell me how draining breastfeeding can be? "Breastfeeding flu" is just one of many terms I have typed into Google. I've also searched "Tiredness and breastfeeding" and "Muscle aches and breastfeeding."

Very few relevant links ever result. One time I clicked on an article about having the flu while breastfeeding. Another described a mom's struggle to breastfeed with fibromyalgia. What I didn't find were stories like mine: I'm an otherwise healthy new mom who feels completely drained from breastfeeding. My body literally hurts, from the inside out. Sometimes, it's as if every cell has had the nutrients sucked right out of it.

I guess that's because this is exactly what's happening each time I nurse my infant son. I know the bone-deep exhaustion I'm experiencing isn't simply of the new mom variety. I formula fed three babies before this one and, sure, I felt tired from the lack of sleep. This is different. My son sleeps through the night; up to 10 hours (don't hate me!). My head hits the pillow with gratitude, but when I wake in the morning, I feel no more well-rested than the night before.

So many mornings I lie in bed as the first light streams into my bedroom, practically paralyzed with weariness. It'll be another lo-o-o-ng day of breastfeeding, and feeling more and more depleted each time my baby latches on. To be fair, the first few feeds aren't so bad, because my breasts are full of milk built up from the night. But by the afternoon, I start to feel deflated, empty, almost as if my son were sucking on air. Still, he eats hungrily, and my tendons, joints, skin and organs will ache, calling out for energy and nutrients to replenish what I'm losing.

I eat constantly. I'm more hungry now than when I was pregnant. And the thirst? Nothing can quench it. Essentially, I eat and drink all day. I sleep solidly at night. But the drop-dead exhaustion lingers. By 5 p.m., I'm a zombie, dragging my destroyed body around the kitchen, practically crying as I fix my older children dinner. I snap at my oldest for no reason. Then, I apologize, explaining that I'm just. So. Tired.

My husband gets home and I've become part of the couch. Bring the baby to me to breastfeed. Then go on and leave me here to waste away and die. OK, maybe this is a bit dramatic. A good, hearty dinner brings me back to life a bit so I can at least put the kids to bed and finish out another marathon breastfeeding session before putting my son down for the night.

Still, I tearfully tell my husband, "I want to give up. I’m s-o-o-o-o tired." I wonder out loud if we should just switch to formula. But, in the morning my son latches on and I look down at his content face, I feel his warmth against me, and tranquility settles into my heart.

The truth is, I want to continue breastfeeding. I love it. As time goes on, I can see how the all-encompassing, marrow-deep depletion I felt in the early months of my son’s life is getting better, little by little.

I know my body is continuing to adjust to the demands of breastfeeding, and I assume it will get better. Good thing there's strong coffee, and no shortage of medicines for my sucked -out soul: fresh air, exercise, baby smiles and giggles, and a sense of perspective. For this too shall pass. And one day I'll reflect on how much I miss breastfeeding my baby. But I won't miss the fatigue that comes with it.

Opinions expressed by parent contributors are their own.

Watch the video: How I Know When to Breastfeed. Priscilla Dunstan Unlocks The Secret Language of Babies (December 2022).

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