Does Breastfeeding Cause Drowsiness?

Drowsiness is a common complaint of many new breastfeeding mothers. Health conditions, a busy lifestyle, hormone changes and your physical environment all contribute to feelings of drowsiness and fatigue when you breastfeed. Relaxing your usual standards, getting all the rest you can and eating a nutritious diet while breastfeeding your baby can help conserve your energy and replenish your body's reserves.

Woman breastfeeding her child (Image: alexey05/iStock/Getty Images)

Health Conditions

Recovering from a c-section delivery and taking potent pain relievers after your surgery can cause breastfeeding drowsiness. If you experienced anemia during your pregnancy, experiencing drowsiness during the first weeks of breastfeeding your baby is not uncommon. Loss of blood during the delivery of your baby also causes drowsiness during the first days of breastfeeding your newborn, until your body replenishes your blood supply. If your drowsiness does not improve within a few weeks of delivery or you experience sleepiness along with mood changes when your baby is several months old, consult your doctor regarding screening for postpartum depression.

Still Swinging Hormones

Your body releases oxytocin and prolactin during each breastfeeding session. These hormones not only signal your body to produce and release milk, but they also promote a feeling of relaxation and maternal love, explains Sarah Buckley, M.D., on the Mother and Child Health website. After giving birth, some mothers experience thyroid dysfunction such as hypothyroidism, which causes marked drowsiness throughout the day. Check with your physician if your drowsiness is severe and persistent.

Environmental Influences

The place where you breastfeed your baby is often a trigger for drowsiness. Lying down to nurse in the comfort of your bed using the side-lying position often results in both mother and baby falling asleep, especially when breastfeeding during the night while the rest of the house is quiet. Rocking in a glider with your feet resting on an ottoman while you breastfeed relaxes you with the rhythmic motion and close warmth of your baby against your skin, causing you to feel drowsy. Watching your sleepy baby while you breastfeed may cause you to become drowsy yourself.

Lifestyle

Breastfeeding your baby consumes a significant amount of your time and energy. Eating a poor diet while you breastfeed depletes your body's reserves of vitamins and minerals, leading to drowsiness and fatigue. Continuing your prenatal vitamins helps replenish your body's nutrients. Lack of sleep due to your baby's unpredictable sleeping habits or frequent awakening to breastfeed can contribute to your tired spells, too. Trying to do too much, such as keeping up with the housework or entertaining visitors, leaves many breastfeeding mothers feeling persistently drowsy and fatigued.

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