Why Does Nipple Itching Happen While Breastfeeding?

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Update Date 10/08/2020 . 3 mins read
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An itch is an uncomfortable feeling that makes you feel the need to scratch. While this is a normal occurrence in your everyday life, you may feel some anxiety if you have itchy nipples while breastfeeding.

One of the key symptoms of an itchy nipple while breastfeeding is an uncomfortable feeling in your breasts coupled with the urge to scratch.

When should I see my doctor?

You should immediately consult with your doctor if your nipple itching or discomfort is accompanied by other symptoms like:

  • Fever
  • A lump underneath the skin 
  • Swelling of the throat 
  • Pain
  • Infection 

A persistent itch might also point to an underlying problem that may need medical attention.

What causes an nipple itching while breastfeeding?

Mastitis

Mastitis is described as breast tissue that is inflamed and irritated. This inflammation results in a swollen and painful breast, along with warmth, redness, and itchiness. Mastitis may also come with a fever and chills. It can appear suddenly. It is usually caused by a blocked milk duct or bacteria entering your breasts. 

Eczema

Women with a history of eczema may attribute their itchy nipple while breastfeeding to this skin condition. As you breastfeed, your nipples and breasts may get irritated by the activity. Tight clothing and trapped moisture may also cause additional irritation to your skin. 

Thrush

Another common cause for your itchy nipple while breastfeeding is yeast that may have infected your nipples and breasts. Also known as thrush, it is a common infection that babies and mothers can pass cyclically with each other through the mother’s nipple and the baby’s mouth. 

An itchy nipple while breastfeeding can also be due to causes that are more uncommon. These include:

  • Paget’s disease of the breast. A rare form of breast cancer, Paget’s disease of the breast includes the skin of the nipple all the way to the areola. Along with itchiness, women usually also have tumors in their breast. Other symptoms include flaky, crusty skin, and a yellow or bloody leakage from the skin of the nipple.

What increases my risk for an itchy nipple while breastfeeding?

Nursing or breastfeeding your baby will increase your risk of experiencing an itchy nipple while breastfeeding. A history of eczema will also contribute to possible itchiness. If your baby happens to develop thrush, this can also increase the likelihood of you feeling itchiness in your nipples while breastfeeding.

Diagnosis & treatment

Diagnosis and treatment for itchy nipples may vary depending on the cause. Here are some possible diagnoses and treatments.

How are these causes for itchy nipples diagnosed?

Mastitis

Your doctor will ask you questions and conduct a physical exam, along with some tests such as a mammogram or ultrasound. 

Eczema

Your dermatologist may examine your skin to check if eczema is the cause for your itchiness. 

Thrush

Your doctor may examine your baby’s mouth and look for possible lesions. The doctor may then take some samples and conduct some tests. Your doctor may also conduct a blood test to identify if there are any underlying causes for thrush.

How are these causes treated?

The treatment varies for each cause. Here are possible treatments for each cause.

Mastitis

If mastitis is confirmed, here are some possible treatment options:

  • Antibiotics
  • Pain relievers

Eczema

If Eczema is confirmed, here are some possible treatment options:

  • Oral allergy or anti-itch medication

Thrush

If Thrush is confirmed, here are some possible treatment options: 

  • Mild antifungal medication for your baby
  • Antifungal cream for your breasts

What are some lifestyle changes or home remedies that can help me manage my itchy nipple while breastfeeding?

If you find that your itchy nipples aren’t due to an infection or underlying problem like mastitis, some home remedies may help manage and prevent discomfort. 

Here are some possible remedies:

  • Ask your doctor for ointments or creams that can help reduce itchiness.
  • Moisturize 
  • Clean and wipe your breasts after every breastfeeding session
  • Fully drain the milk from your breasts by letting your baby empty one breast before moving on to the other
  • Switch breastfeeding positions
  • Meet a lactation consultant
  • Use the proper breastfeeding position
  • Use nursing pads

Breastfeeding can be one of the most rewarding things for a mom. This is why it is important to address any health issues or discomfort in order to fully enjoy this experience of motherhood.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

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