A headache during breastfeeding may seem common and harmless, and you may ignore it, thinking that not able to sleep or rest well and caring for your baby round the clock is giving you a headache. But there is more to it. A breastfeeding headache especially happens when your body gets ready for feeding. To meet your new baby’s nutritional requirements, there are a lot of changes that take place inside your body, even after your baby is born. And as a breastfeeding mom, you hardly get any time to rest and sleep or eat properly, and the body keeps drawing from its reserves to make more nutrition for your baby. Apart from this, there could be a lot of underlying issues that result in a headache while you are breastfeeding your baby. Read on to know some of the reasons that bring about an attack of a headache, tips to deal and prevent them, especially if you are a breastfeeding mom.
breastfeeding mom with head

What Causes A Headache While Breastfeeding?

Here are some causes that contribute to a headache while breastfeeding:

1. Hormones:

Like during pregnancy, a lot of hormonal changes and hormonal imbalance takes place in your body even after delivery and when you breastfeed

Estrogen controls chemicals in the brain that cause pain. A drop in estrogen levels, which is common after delivery can trigger a headache

Oxytocin released during the letdown of milk can cause a headache. This type of headache is called a lactation headache. It usually resolves on its own within a couple of weeks. However, in some cases, it may last as long as the baby is breastfed, which compel the mother to wean early

Plasma vasopressin is another hormone that is released while nursing the baby. This hormone can shrink the blood vessels, thereby causing a headache

Variations in the thyroid hormones can also trigger headache

2. Exhaustion:

As a new mother, you will be struggling hard to adjust to the changes brought about in your life by your little one. Not being able to get enough rest while taking care of the baby together with the lack of sleep and exhaustion can lead to a headache while breastfeeding

3. Allergies:

As the immunity level of the new mother is usually low, she is more prone to allergies. The allergies and infection can cause pain and pressure in the head

4. Eye strain:

Nowadays, it is very common that the new moms multitask. As a result, they spend a lot of time on smartphones, tabs, and computers. This can stress the nerves and muscles of the eye. Spending too much time on screens and reading books (especially small prints), can strain the eyes. Eyestrain leads to headaches

5. Posture:

The mother spends a lot of time to breastfeed the baby. Therefore the muscle in the neck, back, and shoulders will be stressed. Strain in the neck can lead to a headache

6. Medical Causes:

A headache can develop as a result of spinal or epidural anesthesia induced during the delivery. Likewise, the medicines and injections that were given during pregnancy and right after the delivery can also trigger postpartum headaches. Similarly, if you suddenly stop certain medicines since a lot of medicines are not safe while breastfeeding, can also trigger a headache

7. Low Blood Sugar And Dehydration:

Dehydration is the primary cause of most headaches. During breastfeeding, the body loses a large amount of water, which is mainly used up in the production of breast milk. If the fluid intake does not increase accordingly, it can result in dehydration that can lead to a headache.
Likewise, if you do not eat enough, or if you skip meals as you are occupied with your baby, your glucose levels can drop. Low glucose level can trigger a headache

8. PPD:

Postpartum depression can be a powerful trigger for a headache while breastfeeding, and if you do nothing about it then it will only make your headaches more frequent and worse

cold compress

Headache Medicine While Breastfeeding – What You Should Know

While breastfeeding, you should not use painkillers or other medications you used to take normally to treat a headache. While some medicines are safe to take during breastfeeding, some medicines are a big NO as they may infiltrate into the breastmilk and cause health issues to the baby. Therefore, ask your doctor before taking any over the counter medicines that you used to take earlier to treat headaches.
Some medicines that are commonly used to treat a headache but should not be taken while breastfeeding are Triptans, aspirin, ergotamine, antihistamines, etc.
However, it is equally important to treat the headache, as you have to be up and about to take care of your newborn and perform your new duties satisfactorily. There are mild painkillers which can help you to get relief from a headache. But speak to your doctor before popping in any medicines. He is the best person who can prescribe you a medicine that is safe while breastfeeding.

How Can You Treat Headaches Without Medications While You Are Breastfeeding?

Here are some tips that can help you get fast relief from headache while breastfeeding without any medication:

  • Treating The Underlying Issues: If the headache that you are experiencing is due to some underlying issues like postpartum depression and thyroid hormone variations, treating that issue itself will help you to get rid of the headache
  • Use Cold Compress: Applying cold compress will help to soothe the headache while breastfeeding
  • Take Rest: Take plenty of rest whenever possible. For the time being, arrange someone to take care of the household and your baby so you can relax better. If the headache is troubling you, seek help from your partner or family members for changing nappies, bathing, etc. so that you only need to concentrate on feeding the baby. You can also try and lie down while feeding as this can provide some extra comfort
  • Eat Well: Never skip meals. Eat highly nutritious, well-balanced meals. Find time to have a proper meal. Keeping nutritious snacks near your reach is also a good idea if you feel like snacking on something healthy between the meals
  • Minimize The Use Of Screens: Minimize the use of smartphones, tabs, and computer at least for the initial weeks after delivery. Try to read in a good light. Avoid small printed books, which can strain the eyes
  • Sleep Well: Try to take a nap whenever your baby is sleeping. You may not be able to sleep for hours at a stretch like before, but small, frequent naps will definitely help to reduce the stress and treat the headache
  • Drink Well: Stay well hydrated, increase the intake of water, especially if you are prone to headaches, as it can be a sign that you are dehydrated. Make sure you keep drinking water throughout the day. Likewise, sipping on a glass of water before you start to feed the baby is a good practice to follow
  • Feed The Baby Well: Feeding the baby well helps to prevent engorged breasts, which may trigger a headache. Make sure the breast is empty before switching the baby to the next one

How Can You Prevent Headaches While Breastfeeding?

Maintaining a good posture that puts less pressure on the back and neck, or, changing the feeding position if you feel strain in the neck will help to prevent the headache. Similarly, sleeping well, taking enough rest, eating on time, staying in a well-aerated room away from the noise and congested atmosphere, etc. also helps to prevent the headaches during breastfeeding.
Taking care of a newborn baby while you have a headache is very tough and can be an uncomfortable situation. So make sure you try to take measures mentioned above to avoid it, and in case you still get a headache, take proper steps to get rid of it. Consult your doctor and speak to him about your symptoms. He may prescribe you some kind of treatment that will help you deal with your headaches while breastfeeding.