The other day I started crying during dinner because I thought I was a bad mom.
I was exhausted after another day of trying to get my nap-hating child to take a nap.
Despite my frustration that she hates naps though (who hates naps!) I didn’t understand why I felt SO tired.
- My little one is almost nine months old and mostly sleeps through the night.
- I feel like my body and life have generally gone back to normal.
- I’m not suffering from post-partum depression or mood disorder.
- I have a very supportive husband and help.
- My doctor has run blood tests on me and everything looks normal.
So why am I STILL exhausted some days, physically and mentally.
Why can’t I do this like everyone else can?
I asked Sara Beckel, my local certified labour and post-partum doula, for her input on the concept of post-partum fatigue (yes, another “post partum” thing!)
As the owner of Family First Doula Service, Sara has more than a decade of experience working with pre- and post-partum moms.
And she confirmed for me that PPF IS a thing.
“There are so many factors that are at play,” she says.
Perhaps the greatest of which is simply that your life has changed big time.
“What most women find most surprising is just the demand of being a new mom,” Sara says. “I don’t know how to prepare moms for it. There are no words.”
“Taking care of a baby seems simple. You change them, feed them, do a little play with them – but it’s the same thing every day. The monotony of caring for a child every single day is exhausting because it’s all-consuming and it’s twenty-four hours a day and you don’t get a coffee break.”
Sidenote: I think she diagnosed my problem in five sentences here haha.
Nine months can also be a noteworthy mark in the post-partum experience, Sara says.
“Women may be feeling thrown off that they’re still tired at nine months – they think, ‘I should have bounced back by now, my life should be normal, I should be able to go out all day with my baby and not need a nap.’
“But the post-partum body takes a full year to recover.”
Sidenote: I was mista
While the monotony of day-to-day child rearing may be the entire reason for your fatigue, there are also many other factors that can contribute, Sara says. The good news is that they are all treatable.
Factor: Not taking care of yourself
Sara says she sees many women who get so busy taking care of their new babies that they neglect their own health needs.
This can mean they don’t make time to plan healthy and consistent meals and can have nutritional deficiencies as a result (iron is a big one). They can also feel too tired to exercise post baby, even though this is a very important factor in post-partum recovery.
Your health and nutrition qualify as self-care and these are critical for new moms, Sara says.
“Getting a pedicure or massage once in awhile isn’t enough.”
Factor: Not getting enough sleep
Many new moms have problems sleeping and experience insomnia, even when their babies are sleeping well, she says.
“Not sleeping because your baby is awake is one thing but not sleeping because you’re not being able to fall asleep is a big red flag. That can lead to developing a post-partum mood disorder.”
Do whatever you can to make up for missed sleep, she says.
“Go to bed a 7PM if you have to.”
Also, an over-reliance on coffee when you’re sleep deprived may be problematic, she says.
“When you’re exhausted new mom and living on coffee this can work against you.”
Factor: Not asking for help
The majority of new moms are exhausted because they’re not getting and/or accepting help, Sara says.
“Not every new mom has family or friends they can call but many do and don’t use them because they think they shouldn’t need help.
“You do. You deserve it. Call that person in.”
Factor: Comparing yourself to other moms
This one gets me every time (I have a perfect older sister).
We see other women seemingly doing a better job than us.
But the reality is that everyone struggles, Sara says.
“All the other moms that we think are doing it perfectly are in the same grind you are.”
Social media is a big contributor to this line of thinking, Sara says.
“Feeding a baby all day, you have a phone in your hand and that’s all you’re looking at. But just remember – it’s not really real.”
Factor: Bigger issues at play
Post-partum fatigue can also be emblematic of a bigger problem, Sara says, so it’s important to watch for signs that that you could be having more serious issues, such as post-partum depression or mood disorder.
“Maybe it starts with fatigue and turns into irritability, fits of frustration or even rage. When it starts escalating, it might be time to check in with yourself.”
If your fatigue stops you from getting out of the house, enjoying life, and engaging with the world for longer periods of time, or just leaves you feeling overall unhappy for days on end, that could be a problem.
“You need to be able to ask yourself, ‘is this just a bad day?’ Bad days are expected but when it’s compounded over time and not getting better that is a warning sign.”
“Each mom knows what their normal so it’s important to check in.”
The whole purpose of this article is just to make all my fellow TIRED new moms (and dads) feel better. You’re all killing it ladies and gentlemen.