Itchy Armpits While Breastfeeding: Causes and What To Do

| Reviewed By Sarah Schulze, MSN, APRN, CPNP

Nursing has the potential to bring about unforeseen bodily changes. While some of these transformations can be predicted, such as a larger breast size, others, like irritated underarms, may come as a surprise.

Why do my armpits itch when I breastfeed? There are many reasons your armpits itch when you breastfeed, but the most common are hormonal changes, sweat, dry skin, and tight clothing. Stay hydrated, and use moisturizing lotion to help keep your skin healthy. Reach out to your doctor to rule out any concerning medical conditions.

Read on to learn more about itchy armpits while breastfeeding.

Why Armpits Itch When Breastfeeding

Your armpits could itch when breastfeeding for any of the following reasons.

1. Normal Milk Production

The itchiness in your armpits while breastfeeding could be due to the letdown reflex that occurs during a breastfeeding session.

The milk glands near your armpits and throughout your breasts replace the milk your baby draws out, and they may cause a tingling sensation as your body produces milk.

2. Hormones

Your armpits may be itchy while breastfeeding because of the oxytocin in your body. During breastfeeding, your body releases oxytocin, which may produce a tingling sensation in your breasts and armpits.

This hormone aids in replenishing your milk to provide what your baby needs during the next feeding session.

3. Rash or Infection

A rash or infection, like yeast (candida), in your armpit could be the culprit as organisms like yeast are often found in warm, moist areas of the body like skin folds or armpits.

It also could come from dry skin due to your need for more water. When you’re breastfeeding, you need to drink much more water than you did before you were pregnant.

You may also have a heightened sensitivity or allergens as your body recovers.

4. Heat and/or Sweat

Since your armpits have many sweat glands, you may experience sweating more often under your arms. If you don’t have time to shower or change your clothes, the sweat that collects may cause inflammation and itchiness.

Your armpits also hold a lot of heat, creating a warm, moist environment for bacteria to grow. Breastfeeding causes you to sweat more because you’re burning energy making milk for your baby.

5. Tight Clothing

As you move your arms, your armpits may rub against the material on your shirt by the upper sleeve. Tight clothing tends to stick to your body, which makes your armpits touch the material more often.

Since your body has expanded and shifted during pregnancy, your shirt may not fit as well as you recover from birth. Your breasts will grow when you breastfeed, making your shirts tighter than usual.

6. Dry Skin

Changes in estrogen and progesterone levels can make your skin feel dry in some areas. Your body goes through various progesterone and estrogen fluctuations throughout pregnancy and while breastfeeding.

Eat nutritious foods, moisturize your skin with lotion, and focus on drinking more water to help your skin get back to normal. It also helps to avoid hot showers.

7. Sensitivity to Soaps or Detergents

Certain ingredients in detergents, soaps, or deodorants can cause skin irritation in the armpit area. If you’ve started using new body soap, lotion, or laundry detergent, check the bottle for these ingredients:

  • Propylene glycol
  • Aluminum
  • Parabens
  • Fragrances
  • Lanolin

After you’ve found the culprit for what’s causing your itchy armpits during breastfeeding, switching out the products for skin-sensitive ones will give you relief.

Woman exposing her armpit and giving the okay sign.

How Long Itchy Armpits Will Last While Breastfeeding

When not treated, itchy armpits can last as long as you breastfeed. Breastfeeding causes hormonal fluctuation, sweat, and overall discomfort that can cause itchy armpits.

Treat your itchy armpits to continue breastfeeding your baby for as long as possible.

How To Alleviate Itchy Armpits While Breastfeeding

Itchy armpits while breastfeeding may be annoying, but you can follow these tips to help alleviate your symptoms:

Wear Loose-Fitting Clothing

Tight-fitting clothing can wear on your skin and cause irritation in the breast and armpit area.

Use your breastfeeding journey as an excuse to wear lounge clothes more often. Instead of wearing jeans and a T-shirt, opt for stretchy sweatpants and a baggy tee.

Wear a Supportive Nursing Bra That Fits Properly

Tight clothing and sweat can contribute to itchy armpits while breastfeeding. Relieve your overall discomfort by wearing a nursing bra that fits you and holds up your breasts appropriately.

Wearing a supportive nursing bra can relieve sweating instead of letting the sweat pool in your saggy bra.

Massage Breasts and Surrounding Area

Before breastfeeding, massage your breasts and armpits with your hand to encourage milk production and clear any blocked ducts. Clogged milk ducts and breast engorgement can cause discomfort in your armpit area.

Work your way around the breasts and surrounding area by making little circles with your hands.

Keep Armpits Clean and Dry

Sweat and humidity under your arms can cause itchiness while breastfeeding. Keeping your armpits clean and dry before and after breastfeeding can prevent the development of rashes under your arms.

Take a warm shower or use a baby wipe on your armpits to revitalize your skin.

Use a Cold Compress

Place a cold compress on your breasts and armpits to relieve skin irritation in those areas while breastfeeding.

A cold compress can lower your body temperature and help reduce sweat production as you nurse. It can also help with milk flow during a breastfeeding session.

See Your Doctor To Eliminate Any Serious Issues

Even though itchy armpits while breastfeeding normally aren’t a cause for concern, it’s best to reach out to your doctor after trying all the other treatments.

Your doctor can check for underlying skin conditions or medical issues causing the itchiness. Treating any discomfort while breastfeeding can help you breastfeed your baby for longer, giving them the nutrition they need.

Other Strange Effects of Breastfeeding

Besides itchy armpits, you may also experience these other strange effects of breastfeeding:

  • Leaking breasts: Your breasts may leak milk when they’re full or you hear your baby crying.
  • Full, achy breasts: If your baby sleeps through the night or misses a feeding, you might feel breast engorgement, which can cause pain or discomfort in the breast.
  • Tingling breasts: The letdown reflex, which stimulates the breast to release milk, can cause a feeling of pins and needles in your breast.
  • Weight gain or loss: Women burn calories while breastfeeding, so it’s possible that you’ll lose all your baby weight in no time. However, other mothers gain weight during breastfeeding due to extreme hunger from the loss of calories.
  • Breastfeeding aversion: The fluctuation of hormones could even cause you to resist holding your baby for too long. Breastfeeding can become agitating to you, and you may feel “touched out” when your baby or partner tries to touch you.

Related Questions:

Is It Possible To Get a Yeast Infection in Your Armpit?

Yes, it is possible to get a yeast infection in your armpit due to humidity, poor hygiene, or tight clothing.

You’ll know if you have a yeast infection in your armpit if you notice an itchy rash. Your doctor may prescribe you an antifungal medication to treat it.

Does Breastfeeding Cause Night Sweats?

Yes, breastfeeding causes night sweats. Your body goes through constant hormonal fluctuations when you’re in a breastfeeding season with your baby.

As your body makes food for your baby to be available pretty much all hours of the day, your metabolism is in overdrive and you burn a lot of calories.

Conclusion

Itchy armpits while breastfeeding can happen for a few different reasons. Find relief as soon as possible to continue breastfeeding your baby.

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