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bf-ing - do you think it is in itself tiring - more than just having a baby would be?

(73 Posts)
youretoastmildred Tue 19-Nov-13 21:43:13

I am interested especially in anyone who can answer this from the perspective who has done both.

I have been told that bf-ing is not, per se, tiring, although looking after a baby is, and in fact bfing will be less tiring as there is less logistical stuff to do.

My mother (among others) disagrees and feels physically tired by breastfeeding. (though she says it is easier because more convenient, she says you are always quite tired when you are doing it and have to have a more limited life because there are certain things you can't manage). I agree with this (though she did not put it in my head, she only admitted to this after I asked her about it when I was bfing. she is very pro-bfing and would never say anything negative about it at a decisive moment!)

I am not saying that it is like that for everyone but I do think it is like that for some of us. Does anyone else agree?

Has anyone had an experience of bfing a baby, stopping at, say, 6 months, and getting a rush of energy?
Or feeding 2 babies successively, differently, and having different experiences of this?

I bfed mine till they were 15 or 16 months and didn't suddenly stop, but from about 10 or 12 months when they were eating and drinking freely, felt a lot better, and was able to lose weight and get out and about more. I do ascribe this to them taking more of their energy from food and less of it out of me.

Interested to hear all about it!

NaturalBaby Tue 19-Nov-13 21:46:46

I ebf 3 babies till 8-9 months. Around 6 months with all of them I become utterly exhausted, to the point where I thought I had a thyroid problem and the GP just told me to stop BF. I had lost all my baby weight and then some and couldn't get through the day without an afternoon nap. I can't say it was all down to bf as none of them slept through till around 8-9 months.

Creamtea1 Tue 19-Nov-13 21:47:36

I've done both, one bf and one ff and currently bf dc3. I think that bf is more tiring slightly than ff, only slightly though. Ff uses energy in more domestic ways, ie the washing, sterilising etc. bf feels slightly more physically tiring.

blueberryupsidedown Tue 19-Nov-13 21:50:33

I found that with ds1, bf was easy and not too tiring, because I could sleep when he slept and carry him in a sling, and had all the time in the world to sit on the sofa, watch telly and BF from 4 to 7 in the evening.... But when it comes to second (or third) baby, it's much harder to keep up with all the work, pay attention to other children and BF. I only had 18 months gap between my two children and found BF exhausting with DS2, not because of BF per say, but because of all the other work and the fact that I couldn't sleep as much during the day. I do think that it takes some of your energy and can be painful, irregular, constantly disrupted sleep.

CocktailQueen Tue 19-Nov-13 21:52:57

I don't think so, in my experience. I bf dd till 23 months and DS to 36 months. There was no sudden surge if energy after stopping feeding either. I missed the closeness and the sitting down time, tbh.

Mattissy Tue 19-Nov-13 21:55:27

Only exclusively bf ds for 2 weeks before expressing then exclusive ff, I have never been more knackered in my entire life, walking dead for 8 solid weeks. It let up a little from then on but slowly.

Bf dd for 26 months, first 4 months were a breeze, months 5 & 6 were hell until weaning started and she settled down again.

Would def bf if I had another, which ain't happening!!

SignoraStronza Tue 19-Nov-13 21:57:00

Fed dc1 until 2.5 and dc2 still going at 16 months. I'll be honest and say that as soon as I stopped with dc1 there was a kind of 'fog' of tiredness that seemed to lift, even though by that point she wasn't taking much milk.
I think it is hormonal tiredness and, to be honest, I do feel quite low in general when bf. Am trying to night wean dc2 at the moment and am hoping it will help.

MMcanny Tue 19-Nov-13 21:59:32

I didn't find bfing made me noticeably tired. Much less hassle all round. Sleepy feeds easier especially as you don't really need to wake up for them.

magicberry Tue 19-Nov-13 22:01:43

Only ever bf (3 to one year). Has never made any difference to me. That said, breastfeeding for me is so completely bound up with having a (tiny) baby, I can't imagine one without the other; different when they are a bit older. Lost the weight each time before stopping.

youretoastmildred Tue 19-Nov-13 22:04:10

Thanks everyone for sharing - a range of experiences here - interesting

PoppyWearer Tue 19-Nov-13 22:04:46

I bf both mine to 15-16 months and tend to agree with what you say, OP, about things getting easier around 9mo.

I put it down to sleep/lack thereof. Because if you are bf its easier just to bf to stop the crying rather than nudge OH awake to make a bottle. I mix-fed DC2 and still did 99% of the nights by myself. Around 9mo I suppose they are weaning and probably not drinking so much in the night.

I do know of bf babies who slept very well from the off, but they were large babies. The other babies I know who slept well were all ff. The bad sleepers were bf.

My two are were awful sleepers.

I do think that bf takes something out of you besides milk though, it does require energy and holding a hot little baby close to you means you sweat more, etc too. I remember sweating buckets!

fridayfreedom Tue 19-Nov-13 22:05:09

You feel sleepy when feeding due to the hormones released . I used to fall straight back to sleep after night feeds.

VikingLady Tue 19-Nov-13 22:07:48

I found it forced me to sit down and rest whilst I fed DD.

The HV running one feeding group I went to said many cultures have a (roughly) 40 day period after birth where women take it easy, have their housework done for them, are not bothered with "wifely duties" (ahem), and just feed and bond. It is about the same amount of time your body needs to do the initial recovery after pg and birth - 6w is when you get your check up. She reckoned bf on demand meant you were more likely to observe this period informally, iyswim.

I really hope that makes sense. Didn't get much sleep last night - sorry!

Meringue33 Tue 19-Nov-13 22:11:16

I mix feed. Don't think bf is tiring, but doing all the night wakings definitely is.

leedy Tue 19-Nov-13 22:17:53

I didn't/don't find it noticeably tiring personally (fed DS1 til he was 2.5, still feeding DS2 at 1), or rather any change in tiredness levels seemed to have nothing to do with breastfeeding or how much I was breastfeeding. Actually was quite well rested when DS1 was tiny as he was a champion sleeper until he started getting teeth...

DavidHarewoodsFloozy Tue 19-Nov-13 22:18:23

Only during cluster feeds. I felt as if life was being drained out of me.

leedy Tue 19-Nov-13 22:19:38

(and just as anecdata on the "only large BF babies sleep well", DS1 was 9lbs 7 at birth and a terrible sleeper, DS2 was 6lbs 10 and, until the aforementioned teeth and other developmental madness, slept through quite regularly from about 6 weeks)

leedy Tue 19-Nov-13 22:20:47

I did find BF made me unbelievably hungry in the early days, though. Like, eating entire large bars of chocolate and still starving levels of hunger. Used to regularly have two breakfasts and two lunches.

NoComet Tue 19-Nov-13 22:22:27

No, FF DD1, BF DD2, if anything less tired with blob monster DD2 because she'd co sleep bits of the night and especially early morning.

minipie Wed 20-Nov-13 09:40:08

Is BF exhausting? Two thoughts from me:

First, BF definitely uses a lot of calories - way more than the 500 extra they tell you to eat IME. I was eating about 1000 extra calories a day when DD was 5 months and EBF - and I was using it all. Luckily DD took to solids very quickly, and I felt a lot less hungry and less tired from around 7 months. I think a lot of the tiredness associated with BF may actually be due to hunger and nutrient depletion (as your body will give iron, calcium etc to the baby first, just like when pregnant).

Second, my BF baby was and is an awful sleeper, and the good sleepers I know were largely mix fed or FF. Despite this I don't think BF babies inherently sleep worse/wake up more than FF babies (except maybe in the very early days when formula keeps the baby fuller for longer as it's harder to digest). For older babies, waking at night is usually more about what habits they've got into, than about hunger. The thing is though, I suspect BF mothers are more likely to get into feed to sleep/night feed habits, because it's so easy to whip a boob out. I also imagine BFing mothers are likely to use CC and other sleep training techniques (because they are more of the attachment parenting mould). These two factors mean that BF becomes associated with babies waking a lot, but in fact the two are not inherently connected.

So IMO: eat bucketloads, take supplements, and avoid feed to sleep/night feed habits, and BF need not be exhausting. Far easier said than done however.

youretoastmildred Wed 20-Nov-13 09:54:24

minipie, interesting
Like you I was starving when bfing - and I did eat a lot - but I put on weight too. (which is depressing when you feel too hungry and exhausted to diet and can't feasibly hit the gym)

I think a lot of the interesting stuff in your post is about habits that bf-ing can promote - things that are not intrinsic to bfing but you can very easily go that way if you bf. Among those things I would count a disproportionate amount of responsibility falling on the mother. I know there are things you can do about this, and I am sure I have talked about this and advocated them myself. But these things do happen.

And I think the issues arise more for the marathon than the sprint. Newborns are very hungry, very demanding, they turn your life upside down, fine. If your dp is trying to soothe a baby who could very well be hungry AGAIN (they are so often hungry AGAIN when they are tiny) and hands it to you, well, fine. But it just creeps into being a thing where Mummy is always the backstop and when the baby is 10 months old and still waking a lot in the night, it's just not fair. Somehow this then creeps into a thing where Mummy is always the one who replenishes the changing bag etc. I don't know why this is. I have not been able to challenge it although I think it is quite logical to say "I am the one who HAS to breastfeed, so could you do the changing bag?" or even "Only I can actually express, so I NEVER want to wash up and sterilise the expressing things".

But it doesn't work like that. It is like everything associated with the baby becomes associated with the breastfeeder. Similarly unfairly, my dp doesn't drive, so I think he should get out in the rain and put petrol in. But no, because it is to do with the car it is to do with me.

The reason why I do not / have not challenged these things is because it sounds so grimly legalistic, tit for tat (ha ha ha nice pun) that I think addressing the matter in that way would cause so much resentment that it would outweigh any benefit.

And this is why I think it should be talked about. This is why I think we should have a culture that promotes bfing beyond newborns; a culture that works out how it could be done for the mid - to long-term without making women drudges. Otherwise you put the burden of standing up for themselves on individual women and that burden is too great - the cost / benefit analysis of whether to stand up for yourself or not in a relationship so often comes out as "don't bother".

littleducks Wed 20-Nov-13 09:59:10

I think there are too many factors to try and tease them apart easily, receovrering from the pregnancy and/or birth, things like anaemia which isn't always immediately picked up on as there is an expectation of being tired, the lack of nightime sleep and how calm your baby is, its exhausting caring for a baby that cries a lot even if they do sleep well.

I bfed dd for about 15 months, stopping only when pg. I got the burst of energy and lost weight then.
I bfed ds1 for about 13 months stopping to try and loose weight. No energy boost and no weight loss sad.
I am currently bfing ds2 at 7 weeks.

I don't need any extra calories to make milk!

tiktok Wed 20-Nov-13 09:59:51

There is a survey which throws light on these experiences. You can link to it here:

There have been some peer-reviewed papers that have emerged from the survey.


The survey was online (so participants self-selected) and mainly of US subjects. It may be that women who have positive/negative experiences at either end of the spectrum are more likely to respond to an online survey - so if you feel euphorically pleased or angrily exhausted, you might be more likely to respond. Or of course if you are too exhausted to fill in surveys, you might be less likely to respond. In addition, mothers who had breastfed/were breastfeeding, either fully or partially, were over-represented in the survey.

Those are important caveats.

In the third study: "Our findings revealed that women who were breastfeeding reported significantly more hours of sleep, better physical health, more energy, and lower rates of depression than mixed- or
formula-feeding mothers."

tiktok Wed 20-Nov-13 10:02:26

Mildred, don't conflate the business of 'looking after babies and children' with 'breastfeeding'. We know that women still do the lion's share of childcare and housework.

youretoastmildred Wed 20-Nov-13 10:08:59

I'm not conflating them, I said very clearly that they are different things


as minipie said, bf-ing is associated with certain sorts of behaviour.
So admittedly is maternity leave.

I don't know why you are so determined to make out this isn't a problem. I think it is. I am pro-bfing but I don't think it helps to pretend there are no disadvantages.
I think women are all supposed to just suck it up. I would rather pro-bf-ing people thought about, and worked on, all this, rather than everybody who was sick of feeling like shit picking up a bottle the second the baby turns 6 months. So you have two options: carry on feeling like shit, but don't complain; or put your baby on formula.
That's what my friends did. Their lives were so different to mine when our babies were 10 months old.
Pretending it is imagined doesn't help.

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