5 Surprising Side Effects of Breastfeeding

Most women recognize that breastfeeding changes your body and mind, but there are some surprising side effects some new moms experience that throw them for a loop.

As an IBCLC, I’ve encountered many moms who were surprised by these effects and didn’t realize they were related to breastfeeding.

While there’s no guarantee you’ll experience these, it’s good to be prepared. Here are six surprising side effects of breastfeeding that you might experience:

If you want more guidance and support on your breastfeeding journey, check out the “Fuss-Free First Year” community. It’s packed with tips and resources to help you navigate the ups and downs of motherhood’s first year and community support.

1. Nausea

Some moms feel nauseous while breastfeeding, especially in the early weeks. It’s thought this could be due to the release of oxytocin, which can cause uterine contractions and a queasy feeling. This sensation typically fades as your body adjusts to breastfeeding.

Here are some ideas that might help:

  • Eat a breastfeeding-friendly snack shortly before or while nursing (one that has complex carbs is ideal)
  • Sea-bands
  • Increase fluid intake – especially with electrolytes (I like LMNT)
  • Eat regularly throughout the day to prevent blood sugar drops

2. Negative Emotions with Letdown

Feeling irritable or angry while breastfeeding is more common than you might think. Hormonal changes can sometimes lead to mood swings.

However, if you notice that it mainly happens at the beginning of a nursing session while waiting for a letdown, you might be experiencing Dysphoric Milk Ejection Reflux (D-Mer). This is a condition that creates negative feelings while you are breastfeeding, especially with your letdown.

This can be challenging, even when it only lasts a few seconds. It happens more frequently in the early weeks of breastfeeding, but it can manifest at any time. I experienced it when I was weaning.

It’s important to work with a medical provider if you need to, but here are some different ideas that might help:

  • Deep breathing and other anxiety-reducing activities
  • Join a support group to talk about your feelings (There are D-Mer-specific ones)
  • Journal
  • Distract yourself while nursing
  • Increase skin-to-skin contact

3. Chills

Another surprising side effect of breastfeeding is experiencing chills or shivering. This could be a normal response to hormonal changes or a sign that your body is working hard to produce milk. Make sure to stay warm and comfortable during feeds.

4. Headache/Lightheaded

Are you feeling a headache or lightheadedness during or after breastfeeding? Dehydration and low blood sugar levels can be the culprits. Sometimes, wild shifts in hormones can cause extra headaches.

Stay hydrated and have healthy snacks on hand to maintain your energy levels.

5. Weight Loss or Weight Gain

Many moms are surprised by how breastfeeding can affect their weight. While some experience significant weight loss due to the calories burned during breastfeeding, others may find they hold onto extra weight. In a survey, I found that the split was pretty evenly split.

Focus on nourishing yourself and your baby rather than the number on the scale. If you want to lose weight, focus on not extreme methods. Here are some good ideas for losing weight while breastfeeding.

6. Breast Tingles

Experiencing tingling sensations in your breasts while breastfeeding? This is known as the let-down reflex, where your milk is released in response to your baby’s sucking. It’s a normal part of breastfeeding and a sign that your body works as it should.

You might also experience this tingling sensation as your breasts start to “refill” the readily available milk. This is more common in the early weeks and months.

While these side effects can be surprising, they’re usually temporary. If you have any concerns or experience severe symptoms, don’t hesitate to contact a lactation consultant or healthcare provider for support. My team of virtual lactation consultants would love to help you – you can book a consultation here.

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