Breastfeeding Fatigue is a term you won't find in your fancy baby books or hear in your local WIC office. You can ask your OB/GYN or pediatrician and they will categorically deny it exists to encourage you to continue breastfeeding or simply blame it on post-partum depression. The fact is that breastfeeding fatigue is real. The denial of its existence is actually making new moms everywhere feel inadequate. It isn't depression. It isn't the "baby blues", such a cute term for such a sad state of emotions. Search internet mommy sites and you will find endless threads in countless numbers dedicated to moms who are so tired of breastfeeding they are ready to break like the skin on their nipples and arreolas. They're crying louder than their newborns and are being criticized for it. Meet a breastfeeding mommy in the park and she will likely have dark circles under her thousand mile stare.
Breasfeeding Fatigue is easily understood once you learn what breastfeeding really entails. I know your friends and husband think that you are a walking pair of convenient, money saving, milk bags. Breastfeeding is more involved than that. When you were pregnant you were eating for two. When you choose to nurse you are still eating for two. Babies can take half of the calories you take in everyday. This is both why you must continue to eat like a pregnant woman and why you lose so much weight after delivery. Imagine eating a basic meal of pasta, salad, water, wine, crusted chicken breast, dessert and coffee, all at about 6:30pm. At 7pm you nurse your baby. At 8pm you feel like you had absolutely nothing for dinner and start to microwave the same meal. The microwave wakes up the baby. The baby is now wet and hungry as newborn babies eat every two hours starting at the time their last feeding began. Yes, I said began, So in reality you are nursing almost once an hour to begin with. Feeling tired yet? Multiply this by 24 hours. Eventually what happens is that mom no longer has time to do anything anymore, let alone cook. So mom doesn't eat as well, which means baby starts taking half of what she has to give, calcium from her bones, protein from her muscles etc. But let's make this really interesting and add something called Cluster Feeding.
Cluster Feeding is when your baby is on a power feeding schedule. As they grow a quarter of an inch a week they hit growth spurts somewhere in between. The baby, the smart little science fiction creature that it is, starts to send signals to your body to make more milk to meet the up and coming demand. It does this by cluster feeding. Instead of feeding once an hour they start feeding every 30 minutes. If you're luck this will take place during the day. If not this will happen at night. No one else can nurse the baby but you. Bottle feeding during a cluster feeding is actually going to be a cluster f#$k in the long run. You won't have enough milk for the baby when she's hungry thus frustrating the both of you. So now that you know that breastfeeding fatigue exists and that you aren't crazy or a bad mother, what is the solution? I have more than one.
Hire a Maid
Get over the idea of a stranger in your house and hire help. Let someone else get the house together so you will have time to cook, feed the baby and yourself, run errands and sleep. Most women say that they do housework while the baby is sleeping instead of sleeping. Let the maid do the work while you sleep. The maid doesn't have to be a stranger. It can be a friend or family member. They all come by offering to take the baby for you so you can sleep and clean house. They aren't helping. This is your baby and your time to bond. It really does matter in a time like this when you are nursing. Tell the people around you that they can help by bringing by dinner or cooking it and leaving it in the freezer. Let them clean house and pick up the other children so you can sleep.
Turn to the Bottle
There are a bevy of bottle Nazis out there. I am not one of them. The truth is the bottle is only an enemy in three situations. The first is when you are still establishing a milk supply. Your baby needs to be at the breast to establish the right amount of milk. Once she can properly latch and your milk flow is steady, offer a bottle in the middle of the night. This way your husband, mother in law, teenager etc can pick up the slack late at night. The second is when you allow the baby to sleep with the bottle in her mouth. This leads to choking and tooth decay. The third is when people put things other than milk in the bottle like cereal. This messes with the baby's natural tummy sensor that tells the baby she's full. Try waking up at 2am to clean vomit from a screaming newborn. I know that the ladies at WIC will put you down for this but a happy, well-rested mother is a safe mother, not an Andrea Yates. Ask any Pediatrician and he will tell you that if there is breast milk in the bottle they aren't losing any benefits. It's when you switch to formula that they add multi-vitamins with fluoride. Make sure you have a good pump and that you keep it on a lower setting. You don't want to be too sore to feed the baby yourself.
Wake the Baby
I know that when your baby starts sleeping in 4 to 5 hour stretches during the day it's like Heaven on a silver platter. In reality it is making your bed time a nightmare. By resting up all day long your baby is wide awake to cluster feed all night long. Let her cluster feed during the day so you can sleep at night.
Binky, Nook Nook, Paci
No matter what you call it, your baby calls it relief. After your baby's 2 month immunizations you will notice that at certain times of day they are drooling and crying heavily as if in pain. You will also notice they are startling awake and blowing raspberries. Pediatricians deny this but I have yet to meet a mom whose baby didn't begin teething once their baby was immunized. Teething pain comes with the aforementioned symptoms. It also causes the baby to turn to the breast even more frequently. They may seem like cluster feedings until you realize your baby either isn't eating or is coming off and on every 5 minutes. This means you are officially a pacifier. Pay attention to the signs and give the baby a pacifier to give yourself a brake.
Hopefully I have informed your friends and family well about what you are experiencing. Feel free to add your own extra comments.