5 Side Effects of Breastfeeding

Health Education
July 17, 2017
3 min read

If you suffer from side effects of breastfeeding, you’re not alone.

August is National Breastfeeding Awareness Month and with that we want to talk about some things you may not have heard about when you started breastfeeding.

There are numerous benefits to breastfeeding both for your baby and for you. Studies have shown that mothers who breastfeed have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease, breast cancer and ovarian cancer. But there are some side effects to breastfeeding that you may not know about. If you’re experiencing one of these symptoms, you’re not alone. Many women who breastfeed experience side effects.

Back Pain: Think about it—you’re hunched over your baby, in an awkward position. Your head alone weighs about 10 pounds. Put it in the wrong position and the weight can strain your entire back. While it can be tempting to watch your baby feed, the best thing you can do for yourself is sit in an upright position while breastfeeding. Find a way to elevate your child to you, for instance, use extra pillows on your lap. This will reduce the weight you have to hold and prevent you from bending over to reach your newborn.

Bruising: Yep, your little tike can cause some big bruises on your breasts. Bruising is fairly common, especially as you both figure out how to breastfeed. If your little one is squeezing or pinching your breast during nursing time, consider covering his or her hands with mittens or socks.

If the bruises don’t resolve with time, the culprit could be your child’s lip position. Make sure your baby’s lips are out and puckered. If your little one’s bottom lip is turned inwards, the result can be sore nipples.

Carpal Tunnel: Carpal tunnel syndrome can be a problem for pregnant women, but it can also be a problem post-birth. The carpal tunnel is a passageway in the wrist made of ligaments and bones. It protects tendons as well as the median nerve. Pressure on this nerve can cause carpal tunnel syndrome. Lactating mothers may experience more severe symptoms of carpal tunnel than non-lactating mothers.

If you think you are experiencing carpal tunnel, reach out to your doctor with your concerns.

Splinting is a non-invasive option your doctor may suggest as a treatment. NSAIDs are commonly used in non-breastfeeding carpal tunnel situations and may be recommended for you, but it is important to speak to your doctor before starting a long-term regimen. Corticosteroids are another option for treating carpal tunnel in nonlactating women, but in breastfeeding women the steroids may transfer from the breast milk to the child and cause side effects. If you see a physician about carpal tunnel make sure to disclose that you are breastfeeding.

Cramping: When you’re breastfeeding, your body produces hormones. One of these hormones, oxytocin, is also responsible for helping your uterus shrink down to its pre-pregnancy size. As it shrinks, it may cramp. Cramping during breastfeeding is totally normal and a sign that your body is doing what it is supposed to be doing.

Osteoporosis: During breastfeeding you may lose a small percentage of your bone mass. Keep your bones strong by exercising and eating foods high in calcium like vegetables and milk. You can also talk to your doctor about finding a supplement. Most women will regain their bone mass over time after their child has stopped breastfeeding.

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