Complaint about itching and irritated breasts is common among nursing moms. When women get pregnant or are in breastfeeding phase, their breast size tends to enlarge. The enlargement of breasts causes the skin to stretch out (just like tummy in pregnancy). The more your breasts enlarge, the more itching sensation you will experience. And that stretching is the most common cause of the itchy breasts. Breastfeeding mothers are usually advised to use some high-quality moisturizing creams for it.
Why Do I Have Itchy Breasts While Breastfeeding?
Thrush or Yeast Infection
It’s one of the most common causes of itchy and sore breasts. Thrush is a fungal infection. Candida albicans is a fungus that causes it. It’s a common part of everyone’s digestive system. But in certain situations, this fungal infection tends to grow in other (usually warm, wet and dark parts) parts of body. Normally the good bacteria that our body owns control this fungal activity. But the use of antibiotics (antibiotics kill good bacteria) by pregnant women (at the time of delivery) or by the infant on the time of his birth may result in thrush or yeast infection. A mother can have it through her baby and the baby through his mother.
Yeast infection is a type of skin rash that normally appears around genital body parts. While thrush is when baby’s mouth gets affected by this infection. The level of pain or itching may vary woman to woman. In some, the pain is so intense that even the touch of a light fabric causes pain while in some it’s no more than a mild feeling of discomfort.
How do you know if it’s thrush or yeast infection?
Other than itchy breasts, breastfeeding moms may experience many more signs in yeast infection or thrush:
Nipples that are red, cracked, shiny, sore and extremely painful with sensitive sensation.
As the infections spreads, both breasts get affected.
If your baby’s mouth has white patches like cottage cheese or milk curds, that means he is suffering from mouth thrush.
A yeast infection in baby (nappy rash) or in moms (vaginal infection in moms), can cause this irritation on your breasts.
It’s yet another breast infection that causes itchy breasts. This infection directly affects the fatty tissue of the breasts. And nursing moms complain about itch.
What causes mastitis?
Too much pressure on your breasts (by wearing tights bra).
If you have cracked or damaged nipples, you can easily fall victim of mastitis (bacterial infection).
When your milk ducts are blocked as a result of improper drainage of milk.
How do you know if it’s mastitis?
Changed size of breasts (one is larger than the other)
Sore and itchy breasts
Pained nipples with pus
Hot and tender breasts
Decreased milk supply
Milk gets thick
Improper Latching Position
When your baby does not latch properly, mothers are going to get painful and itchy breasts. Breastfeeding in the wrong position of the baby is the basic reason behind it. This may result in itching and cracking of the skin. It’s a temporary itch that can be relieved by correcting the position of the infant. For right latching, make sure that the infant’s mouth is sucking the nipple as well as the areola surrounding it. If the baby sucks the nipple only, then you would have to face the symptoms like soreness, bleeding and cracking.
Sensitivity of Skin
Besides many other reasons, sensitivity is yet another significant reason of itching while breastfeeding. When you are feeding your baby, you are passing through so many experiences like sucking, friction, constant moisture, hormonal changes and so on. The women with comparatively sensitive skin type are more at the risk of itching. There is nothing to worry about and you can continue breastfeeding the baby. Still if you want some medical assistance, consult some lactation expert or simply applying cold compresses can be helpful.
Many women have been complaining about occasional intense itching that causes red welts on being scratched. It causes no hurdle in the breastfeeding process. It does not involve nipples or areola but the whole breast. If you too have experienced a condition like that, there are great chances of it to be an eczema rash. For an instant relief, a cortisone cream might be helpful.
When you are Engorged
Most of the times when you are breastfeeding, your breasts are engorged. They become hard, painful and swelled. Excessive amount of milk in them tends to stretch them out and you feel irritation and occasional itching. Feeding more to your baby or pumping out excessive amount of milk can give some relief.
How to Relieve the Itchiness
There are ways to deal with itchy breasts. Breastfeeding cannot be stopped. Here is what you can do about it.
Avoid rubbing this sensitive area. Rinse it with cool water and pat dry while having shower.
Try to keep your breasts dry. Pat dry it after nursing your baby.
Make sure you are exposing your breasts to direct sunlight daily. Sunlight is a good source of killing yeast fungus or bacteria.
Don’t keep wearing the wet bras. Change or dry it after feeding your baby or simply go braless.
Avoid wearing breast pads with plastic lining on them. Plastic tends to trap moisture (milk) and may cause rashes and itch.
You are advised to change the breast pads after feeding your baby.
Application of lanolin on the affected area after breastfeeding is also recommended.
Sleep on your back to avoid the squashing of the breasts against the mattress.
Adding probiotics in your daily diet helps producing the good bacteria and that helps in controlling the thrush infection.
Use breast pillows for a better latching position.