Breastfeeding is usually the best choice for your baby, but it doesn’t always feel like it.
Even when your milk supply is good, you may have latching problems or sore breasts. But there’s some other lesser-known complications too. If it’s your first time nursing, you may wonder what’s normal and which side effects can be attributed to breastfeeding.
In this post, we’re answering some frequently asked questions when it comes to nursing complications.
#1 Can Breastfeeding Cause Constipation in Mothers?
If you’re experiencing constipation during breastfeeding, it can be especially frustrating. That’s because pregnancy can also cause this side effect, so you may have already been irregular for months.
But is your constipation caused by breastfeeding or something else? Firstly, being backed up after birth is pretty common. It’s thought to affect between 25 to 50% of women in the first two weeks. Since you start breastfeeding during this time, it can be easy to think that your constipation has started or extended because of nursing. However, there’s a few reasons for this side effect during this time:
- Medication— If your doctor prescribed you medication for postpartum pain, check to see if the side effects include constipation. It can be a common cause in the first couple of weeks.
- Prenatal Supplements— One reason you may be backed up during pregnancy is because prenatal vitamins contain iron. Although some brands are better than others, iron can cause constipation. Similarly, if you continue taking them into breastfeeding (which you should), this side effect could be prolonged.
- Physical Discomfort— Although it may not exactly be “constipation,” your mind may be playing tricks on you if the area is still sensitive. Whether it’s a tear, C-section sensitivity, digestive system trauma or hemorrhoids, pushing to go to the bathroom may feel awkward. If you subconsciously worry about making the issue worse, it can prevent you from going.
- Dehydration— During breastfeeding, extra water is being used for milk production. That means less is going to your bowels. To compensate for that, aim for about 10 to 12 glasses rather than the usual 8.
- Diet— Diet is a common cause of constipation, but it can become even more noticeable after birth. Since you’re busy taking care of a baby all the time, you may be neglecting your diet and not getting enough fiber.
#2 Can Breastfeeding Cause Acne?
Some women notice pimples pop up when they begin nursing and wonder the cause. Others have worse acne starting during pregnancy and it lasts into breastfeeding. There’s a few possible causes:
- Sebum Production— During pregnancy, your sebum production increases, which can cause acne. Since those levels don’t automatically drop after labor, it can lead to acne while breastfeeding.
- Hormonal Changes— Similar to the point above, pregnancy changes your hormones and that can extend into nursing, leading to pimples.
- Stress— Although stress doesn’t directly cause acne, it can contribute to changes that trigger breakouts. It goes without saying that caring for a newborn with a lack of sleep can be stressful. If you add on the frustration and worry about breastfeeding, it can be easy to see how it may trigger acne.
Although you can talk to your doctor about medications, you may be trying to limit them during breastfeeding. In this case, the best ideas are home remedies. Keeping your face clean, trying not to touch it and drinking plenty of water can contribute to clear skin. It can be hard to de-stress in the newborn days, but relaxing if you can may also help.
#3 Can Breastfeeding Cause Headaches?
Some women experience headaches while they’re nursing. Others get them after labor and wonder if it could be caused by breastfeeding.
- Lactation Headache— These refer to headaches you get specifically when you’re nursing. One possible reason is the let-down reflex and the release of the hormone oxytocin. You may only experience lactation headaches for a couple of weeks as your body adjusts. Others experience this side effect until they stop nursing. There’s a couple reasons for this, some related to breastfeeding and some not.
- Breast Engorgement— When your breasts are overfull because you haven’t nursed, it may also cause a headache. Experts believe oxytocin is again to blame for this.
- Dehydration— Dehydration can cause headaches for anyone. But during breastfeeding, dehydration could be easier since your requirement for water has increased. It’s also possible that you’re just too busy with the baby to remember to stay hydrated.
- Lack of Sleep— Not getting enough sleep is another popular cause of headaches. With a newborn keeping you up and waking you when you finally sleep, it can be difficult to overcome in the first months.
#4 Can Breastfeeding Make You Dizzy?
Some moms report dizziness when they nurse, but is breastfeeding itself to blame? Here’s a few possible causes:
- Position Changes— If you feel dizzy when breastfeeding, ask yourself which positions make you feel better or worse. In some cases, a woman may nurse in a side-lying position and feel disorientated when she stands up. If this lasts for about 30 seconds, it’s likely “positional vertigo.” When you go from laying or sitting to standing too quickly, it can cause your blood pressure to drop, making you feel lightheaded.
- Lack of Sleep— With countless tireless nights, every new mom experiences changes to her sleep schedule. Most times, this means a lack of shut-eye. In some cases, you may become so fatigued that you get dizzy.
- Dehydration— This is yet another reason why it’s important to get a full 10-12 glasses of water during breastfeeding. If your body uses extra water to make milk and you don’t top up your levels, you may become dehydrated and dizzy.
#5 Can Breastfeeding Cause Miscarriage?
If a mom conceives while she’s still breastfeeding, she may wonder if it will impact her current pregnancy. Since we now know that nursing longer is better, this is the case for many women who want multiple children.
You may have heard that breastfeeding during pregnancy can cause miscarriage. People think this because, in the past, women were told to avoid against it in fear that her nutrition levels wouldn’t be healthy enough for three people at once. Another reason is that breastfeeding causes the release of oxytocin, which can cause uterine contractions. Similarly, nipple stimulation may also trigger labor. Despite that, experts say that it doesn’t appear to contribute to miscarriage if the mom is healthy and has a low-risk pregnancy. A 2013 review of research found no evidence linking breastfeeding with preterm delivery or miscarriage.
With that being said, if you’ve had a previous preterm delivery or are having pregnancy complications, your doctor may suggest you stop nursing before becoming pregnant.
#6 Can Breastfeeding Cause Cancer?
Since breastfeeding can sometimes make your breasts feel lumpy, some notice the change and worry nursing has caused them breast cancer. It’s important to note that nursing makes you notice your breasts more, which may account for your increase in anxiety about it. You should do a monthly breast self-exam to monitor for changes; however, any worries should be reported to your doctor. If the lump is firm and doesn’t move or go away, it could be a cause for concern.
Although breastfeeding doesn’t necessarily cause cancer, it’s still possible to get it while nursing. Out of all breast cancer cases, nursing women make up 3%. According to the National Cancer Institute, after birth, your risk for breast cancer may be temporarily higher. That may be due to hormonal changes.
But that doesn’t mean you should stop nursing to lower your risk. Actually, in the long run, breastfeeding can lower your risk of breast cancer. One analysis found that not breastfeeding could lead to an increase in premenopausal breast cancer. A 2002 study found that for every 12 months of breastfeeding, a mom’s risk lowered by 4.3%. Interestingly, there’s some evidence this benefit extends to other generations. For example, one study found that the risk drops further when the breastfed girl grows up to also breastfeed her children. If that’s still not enough evidence to convince you, consider this one last study result: breastfeeding for at least 6 months may decrease your baby’s risk of cancer.
Summary of Breastfeeding Side Effects
There are some side effects new moms experience that can be tied to breastfeeding. However, many symptoms are due to changes from pregnancy or from lifestyle changes of having a newborn. If you can’t pinpoint the cause of your problem, talk to your doctor to determine whether it’s a result of nursing.
P.S. Breastfeeding can be stressful but made easier with a pump. With a built-in storage system, these allow you to express when you’re ready and save for later. It will also prevent engorged breasts, which can lead to unpleasant side effects.
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