I was tired. Physically tired. The first reaction of course is, “Well, you have a newborn, Cate, of course you’re tired.” But the baby was sleeping incredibly well – eight or so hours a night – so I was getting sleep. I couldn’t figure out why simple task like walking or holding the baby seemed to take so much energy and exhaust me. Forget about running! I was worn out, and I couldn’t figure out why. Then I stumbled upon the phrase: Postnatal Depletion.
And a light bulb clicked on.
Turns out, if we aren’t receiving adequate nutrition postpartum, we can suffer.
What is Postnatal Depletion?
Simply put, after having a baby, the nutritional demands on your body are incredibly high. Imagine you are a boat on a lake for example. Prior to children that boat sailed effortlessly. Once becoming pregnant, little leaks and holes start to appear in your boat. Labor and delivery created another leak. Each day of breastfeeding creates more leaks, until your beautiful sailboat is riddle with leaks and slowly sinking the bottom of the lake.
A doctor by the name of Oscar Serrallach explains: “The placenta passes many nutrients to the growing baby during pregnancy, tapping into the mom’s iron, zinc, vitamin B12, vitamin B9, iodine, and selenium stores—along with omega 3 fats like DHA and specific amino acids from proteins.” The mother’s stores are significantly decreased; even her brains shrinks and changes after having a baby! (You can read more about it here, and even check our Dr. Serrallach’s book here!)
How Does Depletion Happen?
Simply put: through pregnancy and breastfeeding. However, there is a bit more than that.
Many women go into pregnancy with a lot of stress whether from work, exercise, family life, etc. and many women are battling inflammation. Those two factors contribute heavily to becoming depleted after pregnancy. And if you never fully heal and restore your body after pregnancy, subsequent pregnancies and breastfeeding will make matters worse.
Signs and Symptoms of Depletion
There’s are good chance that if you’ve had a baby, or multiple babies, you have some amount of postnatal depletion. Some of the signs are:
- Exhaustion, fatigue, falling asleep without intending to
- Brain fog, “mommy brain”
- Hypervigilance, the feeling of being constantly “on”
- Mood swings and emotional exhaustion
- Frustration, overwhelm, and guilt
- Low libido
And these things can last up to a DECADE after birth.
How to Heal from Postpartum Depletion
After having a baby, often times the focus of care is on the baby and the mother is forgotten. But moms have some serious recovery to do! In order to protect yourself or heal yourself from depletion, you need to take steps.
Especially after baby comes. Take people up on their offers of help. Your focus should be resting, eating, and bonding with baby.
If it’s been a few months or years since you baby was born, don’t be afraid to ask for help if you need it. If you have the means, hire a cleaning lady for a while, or get a babysitter so you can nap. But never be afraid to ask for help when you need it.
Focusing on super nutrient-dense foods is going to be key here. Whether or not you’re breastfeeding, you will need to build up your stores, but if you are breastfeeding, you are really going to need to focus on your diet.
- Liver and organ meats ( I have a great meatball recipe that hides the liver; you can’t even taste it!)
- Meat cooked on the bone
- Sardines (full confession, I still can’t bring myself to try them, but if you’re a brave soul, these little fish are CRAZY nutritious.)
- Bone Broths
- Plenty of fresh vegetables
Continue Taking a QUALITY Prenatal
If you stopped taking a prenatal, start up again. If you are taking one, but still feel like garbage, the problem may be it’s not a great one.
No offense to the yummy gummies out there, but quality really does matter, especially when you’re trying to heal yourself. Talk to you doctor and see if they have a recommendation. My personal favorite is this one from Thorne Research. I actually switched to this one after taking the gummy vitamin for most of my pregnancy and postpartum period.
There’s this societal pressure that seems to think once a woman has a baby, it’s a race to get back to normal as soon as possible. “Lose the weight, go back to work, do all the things, and kick some butt!” I feel it too; no one is immune.
There is no race. There are no expectations from other people, so please stop putting them on yourself. Allow yourself some time to rest. Skip the intense workout sessions and the late night laundry folding and go to bed. You will get back to those things, but if you don’t take care of yourself now, it will take much longer to return to the things you love.
Once I started focusing on taking in plenty of nutrition, allowing for more rest, and slowing down on my runs and workouts, I started to notice a difference. Switching my prenatal to a quality prenatal is a huge component to feeling better and healing.
Trying to force your body into hard workouts too soon or too quickly only ends in disaster. Trust me, slowing down and taking care of yourself is the quickest way to getting back to feeling good.
If you’d like more information, check these articles: