Breastfeeding

Itchy Nipples in Breastfeeding: Causes & Treatment

Itchy nipples in breastfeeding are not a serious disease. Around 60% of new mothers face this problem in the first month. Quality breastfeeding and appropriate attachment can solve this issue.

The mother who doesn’t know things to be followed while breastfeeding can face this problem frequently. Often they feel like they are having itching in their breast which is even deeper, not on the surface. 

The itchiness can be felt both in the nipples or in the breast. Well, this is very common as your newborn even doesn’t know how to leche the nipples. The phrase is new both for the mother and the newborn. You may like our recent publication on how to breastfeed with nipple piercing?

With some changes in lifestyle and home remedies, you can get relief. As a gynecologist, I will uphold all the possible remedies and suggestions for you to ensure safe breastfeeding. But still, if you face any problem then you should consult with a doctor without wasting a single precious time.        

itchy nipples in breastfeeding
itchy nipples in breastfeeding: 06 Causes  

itchy nipples in breastfeeding: 06 Causes  

itchy nipples in breastfeeding: 06 Causes: Cracked and irritated s
Cracked and irritated skin

01. Cracked and irritated skin

Itchy nipples in Breastfeeding can lead to sickness and irritation of the skin since initially, the tissue of the nipple can be sensitive. The force with which a newborn may suck can often astonish women who are new to breastfeeding. 

The nipple tissue may initially be sensitive to dry and irritated skin, particularly in persons who have been experiencing skin problems with history. Due to the discomfort of nursing, women with a history of eczema may develop dermatitis on their nipples.

When itching of nipples is caused by cracked or dry skin, the symptoms may be on the skin surface. Typically the symptoms will improve with a comfortable rhythm in the breastfeeding couple.

itchy nipples in breastfeeding: 06 Causes: Mastitis
Mastitis

02. Mastitis

Mastitis may lead to itchy nipples in breastfeeding. It is a bacterial infection that causes inflammation and pain in the deep breast tissue. It might arise out of nowhere, especially in the first few weeks of nursing.

Mastitis can produce itching and soreness on the surface of the breast as well as deep into the tissue. Some mothers experience excruciating shooting pains. To the touch, the breasts may feel warm. Mastitis can also result in a high temperature.

Antibiotics can be prescribed for mastitis by a doctor. Untreated infections can progress and even become life-threatening in rare cases.

itchy nipples in breastfeeding: 06 Causes: Thrush
Thrush

03. Thrush

It is a yeast infection that affects the breast or nipple. Itching and soreness on the nipples, as well as deep in the breasts, are particularly prevalent among breastfeeding women.

The source of the discomfort can be difficult to pinpoint, and it may alter or worsen over time. In warm, damp conditions, like the baby’s mouth, thrush thrives. Thrush can be passed back and forth between a mother and her child for weeks or even months.

To assist prevent thrush from re-occurring, a doctor will typically prescribe therapy for both the mother and the infant.

itchy nipples in breastfeeding: 06 Causes: Contact dermatitis
Contact dermatitis

04. Contact dermatitis

After being exposed to a skin irritant, contact dermatitis causes pain and itching. As their bodies acclimatize to constant touch with a baby’s mouth in the early weeks of nursing, some mothers get contact dermatitis in the nipples. Certain creams used by some women for breastfeeding can sometimes also cause contact dermatitis.

Itching occurs only on the area of the nipple that is in contact with the baby’s mouth or another irritant when someone has contact dermatitis. The nipples are sometimes red or scaly.

itchy nipples in breastfeeding: 06 Causes: Reaction to the letdown
Reaction to the letdown

05. Reaction to the let down

The let-down reflex aids in the flow of milk from the nipple. The let-down reaction can be triggered by suckling, hearing a baby scream, or even thinking about the baby. This response can also occur when a feed is delayed or if a woman has an excessive supply of breast milk.

The let-down reaction affects every woman differently, however, it might produce itching in the nipples or breasts for a brief period of time. The let-down response is unlikely to be the cause of itching that lasts several minutes or hours.

itchy nipples in breastfeeding: 06 Causes: Improper placement and a bad latch
Improper placement and a bad latch

06. Improper placement and a bad latch

Breastfeeding is a technique that takes time to learn for both the mother and the baby. It can irritate or injure the nipple if the infant latches on to the breast inappropriately or is in a posture that puts too much pressure on it.

Itching from a faulty latch or improper placement is common in the first few weeks of breastfeeding. It usually goes away on its own when the couple gets used to breastfeeding.

If there are no improvements, a woman can be referred to a consultant for lactation who can assist in posture and resolve other concerns.

itchy breast breastfeeding: Symptoms
itchy breast breastfeeding: Symptoms

itchy breast breastfeeding: Symptoms

Well, often you might feel that your breast has some issues with itching. But that does always not mean that you’re going through these problems, to be sure of it you need to check with some symptoms, these are

  1. There will be a  yello, brown or blood like drainage
  2. May face severe breast pain
  3. Your breast will look more like an orange peel
  4. The breast tissues might become thicken 
  5. Nipples often becomes inverted
  6. Might face burning sensation 

If you face all this while breastfeeding, then you definitely need a doctor

itchy boobs breastfeeding: Treatment

itchy boobs breastfeeding: Treatment

Why would you go to the doctor when you have some amazing remedies near your hand to relieve itchy boobs?  here are some helpful options

  1. A certified APNO (all purpose nipple cream) often can be a great solution to aid your nipple pain as it has anti-inflammatory, antifungal and antibacterial ingredients on it.
  2. You can also try a Lanolin cream. A study shows that women using lanolin cream  feel more comfortable even after breastfeeding for 12 months. On the other hand APNO is a bit less in the race.
  3. It is very important as perfect position aids you a lot in this case of pain. If you are not sure of it then definitely visit a lactation consultant.
  4. For getting rid of inflammation you can often apply heat to your breast. It also helps in irritation.
  5. Even for hygiene try to dry your nipples each time you go for breast feeding and after that. This is helpful for cracking and infection.
  6. Make sure your baby empties the first breast then alternate it to other.
  7. Try to use breast pads inside your bra or cloth to ensure the dryness of your milk as the pads would soak the leakage of your milk.
  8. Use a moisturizer to keep your breast hydrated, you can use it just after taking shower or after the last feed of your newborn
  9. Maintain daily hygiene, bathe regularly , clean your body with mild soap, don’t go for harsh chemicals.
  10.  Wear loose dresses made of cotton or comfortable fabric.
  11.  Always pump the excess milk from your breast.
  12.  Don’t let your baby become confused with your nipple and the one attached in the bottles.
  13.  Select the perfect size breast pump.
  14.  Clean all of your baby toys including nipples of the bottle for at least 20 minutes in boiling water.

If you still have itchy boobs, please consult a doctor. 

Some Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

#Some Frequently Asked Questions & Answers

How do I stop my nipples from itching while breastfeeding?
How do I stop my nipples from itching while breastfeeding?

How do I stop my nipples from itching while breastfeeding?

By following certain lifestyle changes you can get rid of itchy breasts like maintaining hygiene, using moisturizer, and keeping your breast dry. but if the problem continues you can use all-purpose nipple ointment or lanolin cream. You can also give heat to your breast for instant relief.

How do I know if I have thrush on my nipples?

Thrush, a yeast infection of the nipples, can cause persistent nipple pain in the early stages of breastfeeding or nipple discomfort that emerges after several weeks or months of pain-free nursing. Thrush is caused by Candida albicans, a yeast infection. If you have any of the following symptoms, you may have a thrush infection in your breasts:

  1. After feeding, you begin to experience pain in both nipples and breasts. If you have never experienced pain after a feed before, the pain is severe and can last up to an hour
  2. Nipples that are itchy or burning and seem fiery red, glossy, flaky, and/or have a rash with small blisters
  3. Nipples with cracks
  4. Shooting breast pains during or after feed
  5. Intense nipple or breast pain that persists after improved latch-on and positioning
How do I know if I have thrush on my nipples?
Does breastfeeding cause itchy breasts?

Does breastfeeding cause itchy breasts?

When young moms begin breastfeeding for the first time, they may run into certain difficulties. Itchy breasts or nipples are not as common as concerns like acquiring the appropriate latch or finding a comfortable position. Itchy breasts might make it difficult to feed the infant. It is not a single problem and should be discussed with your physician. Continue reading to learn more about itching breasts and how to deal with them.

Itchy nipples or breasts most frequently occur during the first breastfeeding phase but can happen at any time. Discomfort in the first few weeks is rather usual, and it should subside with time.

Breastfeeding itchy breasts not nipples
Breastfeeding itchy breasts not nipples

Breastfeeding itchy breasts not nipples

At the initial stage of breastfeeding, one common problem that mothers face is itchy breasts and nipples. Thrush, mastitis, eczema, etc create this itchiness. However, there are some mothers who only experience breastfeeding itchy breasts, not nipples. 

There are several reasons behind it. The tissue of the breast frequently changes as the breast always fills and is vacant. As a result, it can enlarge and end in stretched skin with itchy stretch marks. Sometimes fine lines become visible on the breast. The situation gets worse in the dry season for a lack of moisturization. 

Many mothers have some skin infections, most common fungal infections such as ringworm and scabies. In addition, some mothers tend to wash their breasts with soap after breastfeeding which can cause itchiness. Itchiness of the breast may be a symptom of blocked milk ducts. 

To solve the problem of itchiness you might take some steps like keeping your breast dry, taking good care of your breast, keeping it clean, wearing comfortable and loose-fitting dresses, using moisture if the skin gets too dry, and so on. 

You can feel it mainly in the first two or three weeks. But it is not uncommon to have it at any stage. In general, it goes away with time. But if you are facing this for a long time or have other problems such as breast pain you should consult a doctor.

Itchy breasts while breastfeeding not thrush
Itchy breasts while breastfeeding not thrush

Itchy breasts while breastfeeding not thrush

Though thrush is one of the key causes of itchy breasts while breastfeeding, there are other reasons too. Mastitis is a bacterial infection that is responsible for inflammation and itchiness. 

Sometimes nipples get too dry and cracked or pierce that bacteria use as an entry point. These bacteria then infect the milk ducts and the tissues around them. The sensitive tissue of nipples might get dry or irritated skin while forceful sucking. This dryness actually produces itchiness. 

Another cause of itchiness, inflammation, and redness of the skin is eczema which affects both the skin on the breast and the nipples. Frequent breastfeeding creates constant friction on the breast skin to make it itch. 

Skin fungal infections such as ringworm and scabies irritated the skin. Hence, red lines and fine rashes appear on the skin. The tissue of the breast frequently changes as the breast always fills and is vacant with milk. As a result, it can enlarge and end in stretched skin with itchy stretch marks.

Itching breasts after stopping breastfeeding
Itching breasts after stopping breastfeeding

itching breasts after stopping breastfeeding – Why?

While most of the mothers face itching breast problems, some have reported feeling itchiness after stopping breastfeeding. So what causes this problem? Well, there is not only one. Let us find them out:

01 Mastitis and clogged ducts

A plugged duct may provoke excessive tenderness in the breast that is quite localized. It might pursue a breast infection called mastitis which causes severe pain, itch, and redness in the breast. Soon the breast tends to be tender and warm to the touch.

02. Skin Changes

After stopping breastfeeding and baby, moms observe a lot of changes in the skin because of a surge in hormones. You will experience dryness, acne, stretch marks, and other skin issues after stopping breastfeeding which might cause itchy breasts.

03. Stretchy Skin

During the breastfeeding period, the breasts of women tend to get bigger and make stretches. Breast tissues frequently change due to breast repeat milk filling and emptying. As a result, it can influence it to enlarge and contract. Hence, stretched skin and itchy stressed marks appear in breasts.

04. Dry skin

Breastfeeding mothers feel itchy breasts more prominently in dry seasons especially when the breasts are not moisturized enough.

05. Drying up milk

Your body produces milk while breastfeeding. But when you stop breastfeeding your breast will start to dry up milk. As a result, you might experience some kind of itching in your breast.

Itchy nipples after breastfeeding
Itchy nipples after breastfeeding

itchy nipples after breastfeeding – Why?

Many mothers report having itchiness on breasts and nipples. This is a very common problem for new mothers. There are certain causes of itchy nipples after breastfeeding. 

01. Cracked and dry skin

New mothers might get surprised while breastfeeding by realizing how forcefully a baby can suck. The tissue of the nipple normally remains very sensitive at the initial stage. So forceful sucking may cause dry and irritated skin and create itchiness. People with a history of skin face this problem more often.

02. Mastitis

Caused by bacteria, Mastitis is known for inflammation and pain in the deep tissue of the breast. It not only causes itchiness but also causes pain in the nipples.

03. Thrush

One of the most common causes of nipple itching is thrush or yeast infection which is mainly caused by a fungus called Candida albicans. Mothers with a history of vaginal thrush can often face this issue.

04. Infection

Itchy nipples can be a symptom of infection. You should consult a doctor if you have sore nipples, sharp pain, or aching deep within the breast tissue.

Itchy nipples after pumping
Itchy nipples after pumping

Itchy nipples after pumping

Besides direct breastfeeding, new mothers also experience itchy nipples after pumping. Nipple blister or bleb is identified as one of the common causes of itching after breast pumping. Generally, it comes with a small blister spot filled with milk while the bleb is spotted. 

Unsuitable use of breast pumps or shields is another cause of itchy nipples. People nowadays use machines for breast pumping. But you need to be very careful while using it. If it is not fitted accurately it might damage the nipple. In addition, you need to adjust the suction level correctly. 

It is a common tendency for moms to wash their nipples with soup after breast pumping. It can also cause nipple itching. Hence experts suggest mothers not use mechanical pumps or breast milk bottles at the initial stage of breastfeeding babies. If there are no other ways then it should be used with proper methods. On the other hand, pumping breasts using traditional methods can be very tiring.

Itchy breasts after pumping milk
Itchy breasts after pumping milk

itchy breasts after pumping milk

Nowadays mothers are pumping breast milk to feed them because of many circumstances. Though it does not have too many side effects, some have reported itchy breasts after pumping milk. 

Recently pumping machines are used to pump milk instead of the traditional way of pumping milk using a hand. But some may face problems using it. It is quite difficult to fit it properly. As a result, it may cause itchiness. 

After using the breast pumping machine, mothers like to wash their breasts with soap and water which can cause itchiness. Sometimes unhygienic breast pumping may cause itching. But soap is not only causing itchy breasts but also can be harmful to your baby. 

So purified hydrogel or lanolin pads can be a good solution for this. The ingredients in these products not only help for soothing but also are safe for your newborn.

Itchy rash on breast breastfeeding
Itchy rash on breast breastfeeding

itchy rash on breast breastfeeding

In recent times, many reports have been found on an itchy rash on breast breastfeeding. Redness, eruptions, and inflammation are mainly known as rash on the skin. There are several reasons behind this. 

Breastfeeding mothers often face the problem of mastitis within two or three months after the birth of the child which is a painful swelling of the breast. It reduces the flow of milk because of the clogged duct or other factors and causes an infection. 

During breastfeeding, the baby’s mouth, tight clothing, or trapped moisture can also irritate the nipples. Sometimes, washing breasts with soap after breastfeeding can also generate this problem. So itchy rash is very common for breastfeeding women. 

You need to maintain hygiene to solve this problem. If it irritates you too much you can consult a doctor. But if you have symptoms such as infection, fever, a lump underneath the skin, swelling of the throat, you must take proper medical advice.

Itchy breasts while drying up milk
Itchy breasts while drying up milk

itchy breasts while drying up milk

In the period of drying up milk, mothers experience few changes in their bodies. It is not very uncommon to feel itchy breasts while drying up milk. 

Many women have reported having itchy breasts and even red patches during drying up milk. People are sometimes confused that as the breast becomes smaller while drying up and no stretches are seen, then why does it still itch? 

Actually, there is no solid evidence behind this. It could be actually the mind of the mother that thinks breasts are itching as they feel uncomfortable while drying up milk. It is also possible that while drying up your breasts become too dry. 

As a result, nipples might crack. So because of this dryness, you might feel itchy. Sometimes, breastfeeding mothers get an infection on the breast which can cause itchiness. So if you feel too uncomfortable and have some other symptoms you can take proper medical advice from an expert or doctor.

What can I take for itching while breastfeeding

What can I take for itching while breastfeeding

Treatment of itching while breastfeeding completely depends on the causes. If you are affected by fungal infections like ringworm or thrush then the doctor might prescribe you anti-fungal medicines which are compatible with you and the baby. 

You should not take it on your own as it might harm you or your baby. Antibiotics are used to treat bacterial infections. But you must take the doctor’s advice for safety. To cure eczema or dermatitis problems you can find some lotion to apply. You should also keep the hygiene in check such as keeping your breasts dry, using moisturizer, wearing comfortable and loose-fitting clothes, and so on.

Why do I itch when I breastfeed

Why do I itch when I breastfeed

If you itch when you breastfeed then you are not the only one to feel that. At the very beginning of breastfeeding, the nipple tissue may remain sensitive.  

Hence, you might get dry or irritated skin while forceful sucking. This dryness actually produces itchiness. The risk is higher if you have a history of skin problems. 

Dry skin can sometimes tend to irritate or might end up with cracked nipples which can make infections. One of the most common causes of itching is thrush or yeast infection which is mainly caused by a fungus called Candida albicans.

Breastfeeding itchy skin: causes and treatment    
Breastfeeding itchy skin: causes and treatment    

Breastfeeding itchy skin: causes and treatment          

It is very common to have itchy skin while breastfeeding. There are various reasons behind these.

  1. A yeast infection called thrush can cause itchy nipples during breastfeeding.
  2. Mastitis, a bacterial infection, can cause Itchiness in the breast.
  3. The sensitive tissue of nipples might get dry or irritated skin while forceful sucking. This dryness actually produces itchiness. 
  4. Dry skin can sometimes tend to irritate or might cause cracked nipples which ends in infections.

To solve this common problem you can follow these treatments:

  1. Medicine: Antifungal medicines can be taken for fungal infections and antibiotics can treat bacterial infections.
  2. Creams and lotions: You can apply various creams or lotions in conditions of  eczema or dermatitis.
  3. Home remedies: You should wear a soft, comfortable and loose fitting dress, keep your breast dry, use moisturizer and follow hygiene.
Itchy areola while breastfeeding           
Itchy areola while breastfeeding           

Itchy areola while breastfeeding           

The areola is the ring of pigmented skin around the nipples, colored brown to black. Like many other side effects, the itchy areola is one of the most common issues that mothers feel while breastfeeding. Itchiness can be caused by various factors. 

The nipples sometimes become irritated by the breastfeeding women by the baby’s wet mouth, tight clothing, or trapped moisture. As a result, it can end up causing dermatitis or eczema of the nipple or areola. 

Most mothers like to wash their breasts with soap and water after pumping milk or breastfeeding. In order to do that, you might experience itching areola. As the areola is around the nipple, the other factors that itch the nipple can affect the areola too.

Itchy nipples breastfeeding kellymom
Itchy nipples breastfeeding kellymom

Itchy nipples breastfeeding kellymom

Itchy nipples are very common while irritating problems that breastfeeding mothers experience. Here is an excellent home remedy that can help you to get rid of it. 

First, take about a cup of water. Then add 1 tablespoon white vinegar to water and mix it. After that, lean over the cup in order to soak your nipple in it for around a minute. 

Finally, stand over the sink and carefully pour the mixture over the nipple. This will give you relief right away. But you need to keep in mind that thrush can also cause itchy nipples and so you should take proper advice to cure it.

Dr Vilma

M.D., MPH (Obstetrics and Gynaecology) Furman University, BS - Tulane University School of Public Health, MPH - University of Illinois at Chicago, MD

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