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The words new mom and exhaustion pretty much go hand-in-hand. While it’s to be expected to some extent, it’s more than just a rite of passage into motherhood. There are real reasons behind your exhaustion… which means there are real solutions.


Here are 10 of the 10,687,653 reasons you might be so tired, mama:

1. Recovery from birth takes a long time

You've probably heard that it takes about six to eight weeks to recover from birth. That's sort of true—that's how long it takes for your uterus to shrink back down to its pre-pregnancy size (a process called involution). But I'll tell you that I have never met a woman who "felt like herself" again at six weeks out.

Pregnancy and birth are arguably the most intense things our bodies ever do. Recovery is about way more than a shrunken uterus—it involves every aspect of our physical and mental selves. We have to start looking at our transition to motherhood as a discovery of our new identities, not about bouncing back to some pre-baby version of ourselves.

What you can do: Heal. I know this sounds silly in its simplicity. But you would never expect someone to clean their house a few days after having surgery, or to run errands when they are getting over the flu—so why do we expect ourselves to snap out of giving birth? Pregnancy and birth are not ailments, but they are the real deal. Be gentle on yourself, and allow your body to heal.

2. You might be anemic

It is estimated that as many as 56% of new mothers are anemia (have low levels of iron in their blood). This can be caused by pregnancy itself, lack of iron-rich foods, or bleeding during or after birth. Anemia can include a fast heart rate, difficulty breathing, dizziness and of course, fatigue.

What you can do: Talk to your provider. A simple blood test can determine your iron levels, and some supplementation and diet changes can often really help you to feel better.

3. Your brain is on high-alert

Crying is your baby's way of letting you know he needs something. Of course this method of communication is super important now, but back in our cave-lady days, it was essential for survival—baby sees bear, baby cries, mama saves baby from bear.

While bears are generally less of a risk now, our brains still respond as if they are. Research shows that when a baby cries, a woman's brain is triggered into a state of acute alertness, while a man's brain is not. This constant danger-awareness can be pretty exhausting.

What to do about it: Try meditating. A recent study found that mothers who meditated experienced a greater sense of self-efficacy, improved well-being and decreased stress. If you need some help getting started, we love HeadSpace!

4. Your work schedule is ridiculous

The average mom of a 5 to 12-year-old in the United States clocks a 14-hour work day—every. single. day. That means she spends 98 hours per week doing work and/or parenting related activities. Now add to that the work of a mother with a newborn, who wakes up every two or three hours all night long—I am exhausted just typing that.

Your work as a mom is physically and emotionally demanding—and your little boss doesn’t ever let you get a break. You may love being a mom, but that doesn’t mean you’re not overworked.

What to do about it: Take a break. Labor laws exist for a reason! Breaks are necessary for optimal functioning and mental well-being. Research indicates that even a five-minute break—when taken before you feel totally depleted—can help boost your energy levels significantly. Ask a friend to come hold the baby while you shower in peace, take the baby on a walk around the block, or #teammotherly’s favorite pastime: Target.

5. Moms multitask—all the time

Studies have found that women are better at multitasking, probably because we do it all the time. While this has proven beneficial for our survival as humans (and being able to simultaneously shop on Amazon while talking to your best friend and stopping your kids from trying to see if that cat knows how to skydive), it takes a serious toll on our brains.

Daniel Levitin, professor of behavioral neuroscience at McGill University, told Quartz that multitasking, “comes with a biological cost that ends up making us feel tired much more quickly than if we sustain attention on one thing."

What you can do: Daydream. Professor Levitin recommends taking 15-minute breaks every few hours to simply let your mind wander. Hello, daydream, believer!

6. Women physically need more sleep than men

Says science. You're welcome.

Research finds that women need about 20 more minutes of sleep than men do (likely due to all that multitasking our brains are trying to do). While 20 minutes doesn't exactly feel like a luxurious amount of sleep, it does explain why it might be hard for us to pry ourselves out of bed in the morning.

What you can do: Get into bed 20 minutes earlier. Just 20 minutes. You might be surprised by how much better you feel in the morning.

7. Breastfeeding is hard core

In general, we are pretty good at taking care of our bodies when we are pregnant, but once the baby is born we often assume our physical work is done, and revert back to our pre-pregnancy ways.

However, women that are breastfeeding are actually using more energy to make breast milk than they were to grow their babies when they were pregnant. It requires about 500 calories per day to exclusively breastfeed a baby—that's the equivalent of walking about seven miles per day!

What you can do: Chow down. If you are breastfeeding, ensure that you are getting 1800-2200 calories per day (unless your provider suggests otherwise of course). Check out some of our favorite breastfeeding powerfood ideas here.

8. Postpartum depression

While tiredness is to be expected after having a baby, research has found that women that continue to feel very tired for weeks after birth are more likely to be diagnosed with postpartum depression.

Maybe the depression is causing the fatigue, or maybe the fatigue is causing the depression—either way, if you are really tired it might be a red flag.

What you can do: Get help. Up to 25% of new moms will experience postpartum depression or anxiety. You are not alone, and there is so much out there that can help you. Speak to your provider or head to an emergency room if it's really bad.

9. Decision fatigue

Moms everywhere nod.

Scientists have discovered that we only have so much energy to devote to decision-making—once it's gone, it's gone (for the day, at least).

John Tierney wrote in the New York Times, "Decision fatigue helps explain why ordinarily sensible people get angry at colleagues and families, splurge on clothes, buy junk food at the supermarket and can’t resist the dealer’s offer to rustproof their new car. No matter how rational and high-minded you try to be, you can’t make decision after decision without paying a biological price."

Motherhood is a seemingly endless collection of decisions that need to be made. It's no wonder our brains feel like mush at the end of the day.

What you can do: Click off. Take some time to figure out what you can put on auto-pilot. For example, decide on a one or two-week menu rotation, and never stray from it. Taco Tuesday every Tuesday sounds just fine to us.

10. We don't take very good care of ourselves

You are an amazing mama to your little. But are you an amazing mama to yourself? I'd venture to argue that every mom out there could stand to prioritize herself more than she does. We get so caught up in the guilt of "are we enough?" for our kids, that we forget about being enough for ourselves.

Take care of yourself, mama. Put yourself first sometimes. I promise, your kids will be okay—and even thrive—when you do.

What you can do: WHATEVER YOU WANT! Do something (or a lot of somethings) just for you. You've got this.

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We're a busy people, this family of mine. And we like it that way. But we're still always looking for simple ways to reconnect.

And most of the time, those moments happen around the dinner table.

I'm not embarrassed to admit we've become homebodies—we vastly prefer nights in watching movies and meals at home to the stress and cost of evenings out. While my husband and I still try to schedule a few legit date nights out now and then, by the end of our busy days, we like relaxing at the table as a family, then putting our daughter to bed to spend time together catching up on our shows or watching a movie. Most of our dates happen on the couch, and we're okay with that.

Dinner itself is a tradition I grew up valuing. As one of five kids, it seemed to be the only time our family was really all together, catching up on our days, making plans, or even just being physically present together. (This reminds me so much of the table we would gather around every night!)

Now that I'm my family's connector, I make sure to prioritize that time (even if most nights it's all I can do to get my wiggly toddler to sit still long enough to get a few bites of her dinner).

Whether we're relishing a home-cooked meal or simply noshing some pizza (because mama is tired, folks), nothing can replace the feeling of reconnecting—or leaving the table with satisfied bellies.

Because something strange happens when you have kids. Suddenly, time seems to enter a warp. One day (usually the days when nap time is short and the tantrums are long), time will drag on endlessly, making each minute feel like an hour until my husband gets home and can help with the kids. But most of the time, when I stop and really think about where we are in this busy season of life, I feel like time is flying by.

I look at my daughter, and I feel like someone has snuck in during the night and replaced her with this big-little girl because I swear she was just born a few months ago. I hug my son, unsure where the time has possibly gone because didn't I just take that positive pregnancy test yesterday? And I marvel at this rapidly growing family my husband and I have built because, really, wasn't he just asking me to be his girlfriend a year or two ago? (Try 10, self. That was 10 years ago.)

As fast as time races by, I don't have any answers for how to slow it down. If anything, the pendulum seems to swing quicker and quicker as our days fill with new activities. With jobs and responsibilities, with more and more activities and play dates for the kids.

But at the dinner table, I feel like time slows down enough for me to pause and look at this little family. I imagine us two, five, 10 years down the road (gathering around a table just like one of these). More little (and then not so little) faces peering at me over the table, asking for another piece of bread or more milk as my husband makes them giggle with a silly face or story.

I imagine them as teenagers, telling me about an upcoming test or asking if they can borrow the car after dinner. I even see them as adults, coming back to visit with their own kids for the occasional family dinner. (Hey, a mom can dream, right?)


No matter where life takes us—or how quickly—I'm grateful for this time and this place where we can always come back together.

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It happens to the best of us. Even to the GOAT. When you have a baby it's so easy for your home to just fill up with brightly colored plastic. Just ask Serena Williams.

Her 1-year-old daughter Alexis Olympia Ohanian Jr.'s things seem to be taking over the house, as Williams shared with her Instagram followers.


"Sometimes I have to throw my hands up in the air. #thismama used to have a living room. Now I just have a play room. When did that happen?" she captioned the relatable pic.

We've all been there, Serena. As Motherly's minimalism expert, Juli Williams, previously wrote, when so many kind family and friends gift your child with playthings, it's easy to forget where the toys taking over the living room even came from.

"By the time my daughter was 8 months old she had so many toys that we had filled two huge chests with them," she explains. "Plus the activity gym, bouncy seat, swing and walker that were sitting in our living room. Oh, and don't forget the bag of bath toys hanging to dry in our bathroom tub."

The clutter began to get to Williams, who was tired of picking up toys her daughter wasn't even playing with. When she got rid of almost all of her toys, she found herself "more at peace, with less to clean" and she noticed her daughter was playing more with the toys she did have.

Williams isn't the only one to notice this: Scientists have, too.

As Motherly reported last year, researchers at the University of Toledo found that toddlers play longer and more happily when there are fewer toys around. Their study involved setting toddlers up in a room with either four or 16 toys. It turned out, the kids with just four toys engaged "in longer periods of play with a single toy, allowing better focus to explore and play more creatively."

Bottom line: You don't have to sacrifice your living room (and your sanity) to bright bits of plastic when you become a mama. If you're overwhelmed by the number of toys in your space, your baby probably is, too.

If you are feeling the same way Serena is, consider Team Motherly's tips for keeping toys from taking over:

1. If you're moving soon, don't take all those toys 

When Motherly's co-founder, Elizabeth Tenety, packed up her playroom for an interstate move, she didn't bring 75% of the toys to her new house. She had the same problem as Serena, and didn't want to bring it with her.

"Our playroom was often unusable because—you guessed it!—the toys were E-V-E-R-Y-W-H-E-R-E and all over the floor, all the time. (No room to play.)," Tenety previously wrote.

Before the big move, she donated a ton of toys and found it has been "absolutely incredible to see the impact of living with radically less—on me, our home, and especially our kids."

2. Consider packing even if you're not moving 

Take a look at your living room or play room (wherever the toys replicate in your home) and consider what you would bring with you if you were moving (even if you're absolutely not).

Pack up anything you wouldn't take, and move it to Goodwill or another charity.

3. Prioritize experiences over material goods 

As our children grow, they're going to remember the memories we make together—not the toys cluttering up the house. If you can let grandparents and aunties in on this secret, you can keep your living room from looking like Serena's.

When Tenety decluttered her kids' toy stash, she asked her family not to gift the kids with any more toys, suggesting a weekend at grandpa's house, some art supplies or swimming lessons would be more meaningful.

Minimalism expert Juli Williams did the same. "For my daughter's second Christmas, we asked our family to gift us a registration to a toddler class instead of toys—and my daughter loved it," she previously wrote. "I took photos at the class and sent them to our family every week to show them the exciting new things she was learning—and so they truly understood that it was a gift that kept on giving."

4. Consider a no-toy Christmas this year

For a lot of families, a pile of toys under the Christmas tree is a holiday tradition, but more and more parents (including Mila Kunis and Ashton Kutcher) are opting for no-toy Christmas celebrations.

Motherly's own Rachel Gorton has also opted for this minimalist tradition. "Christmas in our household represents so much more than toys under the tree. I don't want our children to be distracted from the real reason we celebrate this holiday by a shiny new toy they don't need," she previously wrote.

"I want them to learn about giving without the concept being tied only to possessions in their mind. I want them to understand that giving doesn't always come in the form of an object."

Like Kunis and Kutcher, (and Tenety and Williams) Gorton emphasizes meaningful gifts and gifts of experience in her family's holiday rituals. Serena might want to hop on this trend, too.

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As the royal tour of Australia continues, it seems the Duchess of Sussex is feeling some jet lag—but it's not necessarily from traveling.

During a visit to Bondi Beach to participate in an "anti-bad vibe circle" with members of the OneWave surf community mental health support group, Markle talked with circle participant Charlotte Connell who is also pregnant, about 23 weeks according to news reports.

Cornell says Markle told her that her own pregnancy has been making her tired, and keeping her up at odd hours. Mamas around the world are nodding in agreement.

"Meghan told me that pregnancy was like having jet lag," Sky News quotes Cornell. "She said she was up at 4:30 a.m. this morning doing yoga in her room as she couldn't sleep."

It's not surprising that (on a two-week tour with a mind-boggling 76 planned engagements) Markle is feeling a bit tired. Fatigue is so common in pregnancy, we hope someone on the tour is making sure Markle can sneak in a nap now and then (seriously, research suggests pregnant women who regularly nap are less likely to have a baby with a low birth weight).

As for being up at 4:30 in the morning doing yoga? Well, if you can't sleep (and so often pregnant mamas-to-be struggle with this) self-care though yoga may be the next best thing.

It's a great way to relax, and a recently published study found working out during pregnancy can cut your labor time down significantly.

Meghan may have pregnancy-induced jet lag, but it sounds like she knows how to take care of herself, something all pregnant mamas should remember to do.

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Although my youngest is approaching a year, I'm still inspired by cozy, but minimal nurseries—especially those that can grow into toddlerhood and beyond. One that has always caught my eye was my sweet friend Lauren's little sweet space for her darling little boy, Graham. Graham's nursery is clean, modern and has just the right amount of warmth added to it.

I asked Lauren what inspired her with this little space, what some of her favorite items were and what feeling she was trying to evoke with the space. Here's what she had to say...

1. What inspired your nursery?

Lauren: I wanted to create a modern, neutral and warm space. His room honestly doesn't stray too far from the rest of our house, which is where I pulled the colors from when I set out searching for a rug with burnt orange, gray and green in it.

I also knew I wanted to include some house plants—again like the rest of our home!—and a few cacti. But I was careful not to get too theme-y, as I knew I would regret it. Rather, I stuck to a color scheme to go with the white walls, natural wood and modern furniture I had in mind.

2. What was the first item you bought for the nursery?

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The first item I purchased was a bassinet basket from Design Dua, which actually lives in our room now, but is probably my favorite piece for baby. I also already had a large sheepskin rug given to me as a birthday gift and knew I wanted to save it for the baby's room to do layered rugs since it is a small cozy space.

3. What is the most meaningful piece included in the room?

The most meaningful items in his nursery are the crocheted play blanket made by my mom. It was technically for my oldest, June, but perfect for all those early baby days spent playing on the floor around the house. And the heirloom Willaby blanket, as they are such a beautiful keepsake. I guess I really like blankets!

4. How does the space make you feel when you spend time there?

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Relaxed and cozy.

5. What "must have" items did you decide to go without?

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With him being our second, we already had all the necessary baby gear, so my nesting was mostly all about creating his modern little nursery. I prefer not to have a crowded home with baby stuff everywhere, so we chose not to invest in a pack 'n' play, baby swing, baby activity center, double stroller or even a true changing table—or any other baby furniture really, besides the affordable IKEA crib! Rather, I got pieces I can arrange around the house in the future.

6. What are the most-used elements of the nursery?

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The rocking chair and the sheepskin rug. I discovered with my daughter you spend a lot of time playing on the floor, so a fluffy rug was a must—as is a comfortable and stylish rocking chair for rocking those babes to sleep daily for the next couple years. And, currently, his handmade baby gym is a hit daily!

Although I was inspired to create a baby gym that matched, I was mostly motivated by wanting one that was foldable to set out the way in his small room when not in use. We made one by combining a couple Pinterest DIYs, using leftover wood from our garage and a few leftover pieces from his DIY mobile.

7. What advice would you give any pregnant mamas planning a nursery?

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It's easy to impulse buy or get overwhelmed with giant lists of must-have baby items, so it helps to plan it out. Or, at least, that is what I enjoy doing as I tend to be an online shopper. That way you can take advantage of sales or coupon codes after you've thought about what will work well in your space. Also, pick items that can grow with your baby or have multiple uses.

Thank you so much to Lauren for giving us a peek inside her adorable nursery! Graham sure is one lucky guy.

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