New mom fatigue

You've welcomed your beautiful new baby to the world and have now brought him home. Having a new baby can be an exciting and joyous event. But it can also leave many new parents, moms especially, feeling overwhelmed and exhausted. Some moms might feel that compared to the first few weeks of life with a newborn, childbirth was the easy part!

Between the endless feedings, sleepless nights and other responsibilities, many women feel really, really tired in the weeks after birth. You may find it hard to balance taking care of a new baby, yourself, your family and your home. Take comfort in knowing you're not alone. These feelings are normal. You can take steps to help you find more energy and overcome new mom fatigue.

Get plenty of rest
When there's a new baby in the home, sleep is on everyone's mind! Newborns sleep about 16 hours a day, often in about 3-hour periods. In the first few weeks of a baby's life, it can be hard, if not impossible, for mom to get a solid stretch of 6 to 8 hours sleep at night. Try these steps to help you get the rest you need.

  • Sleep when the baby sleeps, even if it's just for a quick nap. Turn off the phone and TV, close the shades, and try to get a few minutes of sleep whenever you can.
  • Place the baby in the baby's room. In the beginning, it might help to have your baby sleep in the same room as you. But if the baby's breathing, cooing or restlessness keeps you wake, try moving baby to her room so that you can get your sleep. Use a baby monitor to listen to the baby in her room.
  • Put off other household responsibilities (laundry, dishes, cleaning, etc.). Your main concern is taking care of yourself and your baby. This includes making time for sleep, even if it means cutting back on chores.
  • Limit visitors. Just because you have a new baby doesn't mean you're obligated to host and entertain guests. Limit visitors as best as you can so that you can get much needed rest.

Eat healthy and be active
Eating healthy foods and getting exercise can help you have energy and feel rested.

  • Eat healthy foods. Check out, an online tool from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. It can help you plan a healthy meals based on your age, weight, height and physical activity. There's even a special section for breastfeeding moms.
  • Drink lots of water. Try not to overload on caffeine or sugar-packed beverages. The right foods and beverages can help give you more energy.
  • With your health care provider's OK, get active. Did you know that physical activity can actually give you more energy during the day? Take baby for a walk. Or do a few minutes of physical activity at home during baby's daytime naps.

Look to family, friends and others for help
As much as you may want to be "super mom," no woman can be everything to everyone. If someone offers to help, think about taking them up on it. Ask your partner, family and friends for help when you need it.

  • Share nighttime parenting jobs. Work with your partner to schedule feedings, diaper changes and other baby duties. If you're bottle feeding, have your partner take on more nighttime feedings. If you're breastfeeding, ask your partner to bring the baby to you and to burp the baby after he's been fed.
  • Ask guests to help out. When visitors come, ask them to help you with the dishes, do a load of laundry, or simply hold the baby while you take a shower.
  • Take advantage of babysitting offers. Instead of going out, stay in the comfort of your own home. Take a much needed nap while a trusted friend or family member takes care of the baby.
  • If you can afford it, hire some help. A neighborhood teen can do light chores. Think about hiring a baby nurse or doula during the first few weeks after pregnancy. (A doula is a professional who provides care and support to women during labor and in the postpartum period.)

Caring for a new baby can be a wonderful time in your life. When you're feeling overwhelmed and exhausted, remember that the newborn days won't last long. Soon, you'll be better able to manage your time and energy and enjoy these first precious moments in your child's life.

July 2009

Most common questions

Can I get pregnant while breastfeeding?

Yes. Breastfeeding may decrease the odds of getting pregnant by delaying the return of a woman's menstrual period. However, breastfeeding does not prevent pregnancy, even if the mother is not getting a period. Many women ovulate before they see their period return. If you want to be certain not to conceive again until you and your partner are ready for another child, talk with your health care provider about when to return to using birth control. Note that some oral contraceptives that contain estrogen may decrease a woman's milk production. If you think this might be a problem for your milk supply, discuss different birth control options with your provider.

I just had a baby. How soon can I get pregnant again?

Most experts recommend that, after the birth of a child, you should wait at least 18 months before getting pregnant again. This applies both in the case of a vaginal or cesarean birth. Waiting 18 months gives your body the time it needs to fully recover from the last pregnancy. It also helps prevent health risks during your next pregnancy, like premature birth or having a low-birthweight baby. Spacing pregnancies too close together also has been associated with sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS). Frequent pregnancies can have an impact on the mother's health.
Sometimes it's not possible to wait so long, either because of your age or other reasons. The best thing to do is to talk with your health care provider about what’s best for you.

However, if you're planning to have more than one child, it's best to wait no more than five years between pregnancies.

What is a cesarean wound infection?

A cesarean (c-section) wound infection is caused when bacteria get inside the incision (cut) from a c-section. A c-section is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your health care provider makes in your belly and uterus. Bacteria can cause the cut to get infected.

Signs of infection are fever and painful, red, swollen skin around the incision. Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs. Your provider may drain the incision to release the trapped bacteria.

Most c-section incisions heal without any problems. You’re more likely to get an infection if you:

  • Abuse alcohol
  • Have type 2 diabetes
  • Are obese with a body mass index (BMI) of 30 or more.

What is deep vein thrombophlebitis (DVT)?

Deep vein thrombophlebitis (DVT) is a blood clot inside a vein. DVT is rare, but it can be a serious health problem if it’s not treated. Without treatment, the blood clot can travel to your heart and lungs and block blood flow. This can cause chest pain, breathing problems and, in rare cases, even death.

Blood clots also can happen in the veins around your pelvic area. This is more common if you’ve had a cesarean birth (c-section). A c-section is surgery in which your baby is born through a cut that your health care provider makes in your belly and uterus.

Signs of DVT include a high fever and tenderness, pain or swelling in your leg, especially around your calf.

Hormonal changes make all women at risk for DVT after giving birth. Other risks for DVT include:

  • Having a c-section—Your chances of having a DVT in your leg is about 3 to 5 times greater after a c-section than after a vaginal birth
  • Being obese
  • Being older than 35
  • Not being able to walk around after surgery as much as your provider wants you to

If you think you may have DVT, call your health care provider immediately. You may need to go to the hospital. Your provider may give you a blood thinner to treat the clot and prevent any new clots.

What is endometritis?

Endometritis is infection of the endometrium, the lining of the uterus (womb). Bacteria that cause endometritis grow in the uterus lining, at the spot where the placenta breaks away after birth. The placenta grows in your uterus and supplies your baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord.

Endometritis can spread through the uterus. Sometimes it reaches blood vessels in the ovaries and pelvis.

Endometritis usually happens 2 to 3 days after birth. If the infection isn’t treated, it can cause more serious health problems, like infertility.

Signs of endometritis include:

  • Abnormal or vaginal discharge that smells bad
  • Backache
  • Chills
  • Fever
  • General discomfort
  • Headache
  • Tenderness or pain in your lower belly

Call your health care provider if you have any of these signs.

If your health provider finds that you have endometritis, antibiotics (medicines that kill infection caused by bacteria) can help clear up most cases.

What is mastitis?

Mastitis is a breast infection that’s caused by bacteria. Bacteria usually get into the breast during breastfeeding.

Bacteria from your skin and your baby’s mouth can get into the breast through a crack in the skin of your nipple. Bacteria also can enter your breast through the opening to milk ducts in your nipple.

Signs of mastitis include:

  • One or both of your breasts feel sore, hard and hot.
  • One or both of your breasts swell and get red.
  • You have a fever.

Mastitis can be painful, but it usually doesn’t lead to serious health problems. Your provider may give you antibiotics (medicines that kill infection caused by bacteria) or acetaminophen (like Tylenol) to reduce your fever and help you feel better.

Even though it may hurt, it’s best to keep breastfeeding or breast pumping if you have mastitis. This helps empty your breasts and takes away some of the painful pressure. You can’t pass the infection to your baby through breast milk, so it’s safe to keep breastfeeding.

What is postpartum bleeding?

Postpartum bleeding is bleeding from the vagina after giving birth. It’s normal. However, heavy bleeding (hemorrhaging) can be a sign of other health problems. The most common causes of serious, heavy bleeding after birth are:

  • Uterine atony: This is when the muscle in your uterus (womb) doesn’t contract (tighten). When your uterus contracts, it helps manage bleeding. The placenta grows in your uterus and supplies the baby with food and oxygen through the umbilical cord. If you have twins or a large baby, or if you are in labor for a long time, you may be at risk of having uterine atony.
  • Retained placenta: During the third stage of labor, you deliver the placenta. If the placenta doesn’t pass within 30 minutes after your baby is born, you may have heavy bleeding.
  • Tearing: If your vagina or cervix (opening to the uterus that sits on top of the vagina) is cut or torn during birth, you may bleed heavily.

If you have serious bleeding after birth, it most likely happens when you’re still in the hospital. Your health care provider may massage your uterus or give you fluids through an IV needle into your vein. This can help stop the bleeding. She also may give you oxytocin (a hormone that can help your uterus contract). In very rare cases, a woman may need surgery or a blood transfusion.

When will my period return after the baby is born?

Your period may start again 6 to 8 weeks after giving birth if you're not breastfeeding. If you are breastfeeding, your period may not start again for months. Some women don't have a period again until they stop breastfeeding.

©2013 March of Dimes Foundation. The March of Dimes is a non-profit organization recognized as tax-exempt under Internal Revenue Code section 501(c)(3).