Breastfeeding: Exhausted from working and nursing

I am a working mom, committed to breastfeeding. My baby is eight months old and very healthy, but I'm exhausted all of the time! I've managed to squeeze in time to pump but have no time to eat. Prenatal vitamins don't seem to help and I can't find the time to exercise. Do I have a nutritional problem or too harried a lifestyle?

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ABOUT THE EXPERT

Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

It's wonderful to hear that you are so committed to breastfeeding your baby! Even with a very busy lifestyle, it is very important to begin making it a priority to take care of yourself while you are caring for your baby.

Eat regularly. This may mean little snacks spread throughout the day, if sitting down to a mid-day meal at work proves to be impossible for you. I would recommend packing zip-lock style bags with healthful and easy-to-eat snacks so you can munch as desired during the work day. You might want to pack baby carrots, broccoli, grapes, popcorn, bagel spread with peanut butter or cottage cheese, low-fat tortilla chips, rice cakes, etc.

No time to eat while expressing at work? You didn't mention what type of breastpump you currently use. I would recommend using a high-quality breastpump with a double-pump kit. Hands-free pumping is even a possibility. If you can find an unused office or conference room at your workplace, you can express your milk without taking time from your lunch break.

Exercising may seem to be impossible to fit into a busy schedule, especially when you're already exhausted. The fact is that even beginning with as little as 15 to 20 minutes a day of aerobic activity, such as walking, you can start to increase your energy level. Not only will you begin to see an increase in your energy but, if depression is also affecting you, you may also notice an improved mood with an increased sense of well-being. A short walk, alone or with baby, after dinner might be just what you need.

Nutritional deficiencies and a lack of exercise can definitely be affecting the way you feel. And vitamins are not enough to keep your body in top working order.

When you are constantly feeling exhausted, it is very important to get a good check-up to rule out any underlying medical condition. Your health care provider might want to do blood work to rule out the possibility of anemia or hypothyroidism (underactive thyroid). Either or these conditions can occur following a baby's birth, and should be looked into when a woman is experiencing fatigue or depression. Could depression also be affecting the way you feel? If you feel this could be part of the problem, be sure to also discuss this with your provider. Many women do take antidepressant medication, such as Zoloft or Prozac while breastfeeding.

A harried lifestyle can also be playing a big part in the way you feel. It is really important to find some time just for you each day. It may be only a half hour right now, but let your partner know how important it is for you to recharge your batteries. (And you can return the favor; dads also need some time for themselves.) Read a book, take a nap, soak in a hot bath, visit a friend ... Initially it might help you to make a list of things you'd like to do during "your time." Maybe you can make weekends into a time when you are "cocooning" with family and close friends. Find the time in your life to nurture yourself -- and claim it! You will return to family and work recharged. My best wishes for finding this time for yourself!

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