Sweat It Out? What New Moms Need to Know About Postpartum Night Sweats and Chills

As I begin approaching the age of THE CHANGE, as I like to call it, I can’t help but think of my days when my girls were just babies. The night sweats after pregnancy was indeed a nightmare.

I wasn’t sleeping enough anyway, but with postpartum night sweats and chills, that put a damper on things.

Pun totally intended.

Night sweats after a c-section are even more annoying because of that incision. You’ve got to keep it free from moisture.

Postpartum is annoying enough. But postpartum waking up sweating IS the stuff of nightmares. Though postpartum sweating body odor was not a huge problem for me, it was for friends of mine. And it could be for you too.

Thankfully, I address unpleasant smells in my other posts, so please do check those out. For this post, I will talk about what’s happening with excessive sweating at night postpartum and how you can cope with that.

Why do I sweat so much in my sleep postpartum?

Oh, dear sweet Mama, it is not you! It is your postpartum hormones. Postpartum night sweats happen when the levels of estrogen and progesterone decrease. Once you give birth, your body doesn’t require such high levels.

As your body adjusts the hormone levels, you may notice these unusual changes. And it may make getting that sleep while the baby sleeps even more scarce.

How long do postpartum night sweats last?

The good news is that postpartum night sweats don’t last forever. You’ll sweat from those hot flashes for a few weeks as your hormones start to normalize, and then everything will be fine.

mom trying to cool her down

You’re not alone with these night sweats. These affect roughly 29% of women in the postpartum period.

And if you’re raising your hand in the back, screaming, “But I had hot flashes and sweating during my pregnancy!” then you can hopefully take comfort in knowing about 35% of women have that happen.

Is it normal to sweat a lot postpartum?

Ok, so perhaps “comfort” isn’t exactly the right word I’m groping for here. But the good news is that nothing is wrong with you. It is completely normal. You could be drenched in sweat like you just ran from a killer clown around the block, even if you’re only sitting in a chair.

Most of the time, though, you’re going to find this happening to you in the dead of night. When hot flashes lead to sweating, they call this night sweats.

Does breastfeeding make you sweat more?

In short, yes.

As I’ve mentioned, these postpartum night sweats happen because of your hormones after having the baby. They were higher during pregnancy, but after giving birth, estrogen levels will fall and be similar to what they are like during THE CHANGE.

Women who breastfeed have lower estrogen levels, thus proving that no good deed goes unpunished.

Still, I’d never trade breastfeeding my girls for anything in the world, despite the extra sweat.

Nursing causes prolactin to rise. This hormone is important for creating breastmilk, but it keeps estrogen levels low. You’re suppressing ovulation and your period by breastfeeding, at least initially.

Mom preparing formula milk

I encourage you to breastfeed if you can do so. No judgment if you don’t. But please, don’t choose to formula feed just because you are afraid of night sweats. Then I’d get mad. Women that don’t breastfeed will get their periods back sooner (within the first few months after having the baby), and you will be far less likely to have any night sweats.

But it’s no guarantee!

My friend Amber tried to breastfeed, but complications arose, and there was nothing she could do about it. So she gave her son Michael formula. Despite this, Amber had postpartum night sweats because her hormones were trying to balance.

So, if you don’t want to breastfeed, that’s your choice, but please don’t make it about the night sweats. You may very well still experience them no matter what.

Now, if you’re a breastfeeding mama, I’m sorry to tell you that you’ll likely be enduring night sweats for a while. For me, I balanced out after a month or so, even though I continued to nurse both of my daughters for much longer than that. You can read my weaning story here.

Other women may not get a break until they start their babies on solids.

Then again, perhaps I didn’t notice after a few months simply because I lived in a frigid climate almost year-round. I bet it I lived in Florida, or worse, Singapore; I’d probably have never stopped sweating during that time!

Something else all new mamas must know…

Your weight may make postpartum night sweats more intense.

More body fat = more estrogen production. So, perhaps there is a teensy bit of encouragement not to drop that weight off too quickly. At least immediately postpartum. You can read how my friend Linda made a significant weight loss after her C-section and follow her tips.

Finding relief for postpartum night sweats

Ok, so you might not be able to prevent postpartum night sweats, but you can get some relief from them. Here are some tips…

Do everything to cool off

You can turn on the fan, open the window, or turn down your air conditioner. You can also try my friend Everly’s trick – keep a spray bottle of water by the bed. You can spritz yourself with the mist! All of these things are bound to help you feel much cooler.

Dress for the occasion

Moisture-wicking pajamas and bamboo sheets are essentials for women with fluctuating hormones. You will feel so much more comfortable if you’ve got these fabrics working with you rather than against you.

Chill your water

It would help if you had loads of water to keep you from dehydrating and help you with breastfeeding. But chilling it will automatically keep you more relaxed and feeling more refreshed.

Avoid annoying fabrics

As mentioned, the right clothing and bedding can surely keep you cooler. But the wrong ones can be a nightmare. Loose-fitting clothing will always help more. Anything with polyester or Lycra or that fits too tightly can just make postpartum night sweats worse.

Watch what you eat

Certain foods and drinks can make that night sweats worse. Spicy foods, alcohol, caffeine, or anything served at a hot temperature may be all it takes to cause you to break a sweat with your hot flashes.

One final word about postpartum night sweats…

I know it’s unpleasant and uncomfortable. But hot flashes and night sweats won’t last forever. If it is interfering with your quality of life though, by all means, bring it up to your doctor when you go for your postpartum checkup.

Soon, you’ll be able to get back to normal activities, including exercise, to help your body balance more. In the meantime, try to eat healthy foods, destress, and rest as much as you can. You just gave birth…you can get through anything!

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