Wednesday, September 15, 2010

Nausea and Breastfeeding

After about a week or so of breastfeeding Evelyn, I noticed something strange. Every time I nursed her, I got extremely nauseated and light headed. At first, I thought maybe the room was too warm, or perhaps I was over tired. But as the weeks passed, I realized that it is not just a coincidental occurance. I was getting nauseous right as my milk was letting down. I also noticed an extreme thirst during this nausea. Sometimes having water at hand while nursing would help the thirst, but other times it felt like I could drink all of Lake Erie and still be thirsty.

For a while I just lived with it. It no longer happens with every feeding, but still often enough to make me wonder what is causing it. And so I turned to that modern marvel we call Google.

I entered in the terms "Nausea and Breastfeeding" "Thirsty while nursing" and "Nausea Thirst Breastfeeding." I thought it might be helpful to post what I found, because other women might be suffering from this as well, and curious about what is causing it.

As usual, the culprit is hormones! A buzz word in childbearing these days is Oxytocin. The feel good hormone. The attachment hormone. The love hormone. It wears many hats. I've done quite a bit of reading about it over the past couple of years. Both women and men have a surge of it during orgasm. It causes contractions during labor, and is present in high amounts in the placenta. It is thought to create "maternal instinct" during labor, and attachment to your partner during intercourse. I read about a study that found men have a surge in oxytocin while kissing. It is shown to relieve stress and eliminate feelings of sadness and depression. And, it causes milk let down while breastfeeding. Thinking of your baby, or hearing a baby cry, can cause oxytocin to be released, which is why we have the unfortunate tendency to gush anytime we are around a crying infant.

This surge of oxytocin to bring forth the milk is the cause for nausea during let down. According to, oxytocin "helps make digestion more efficient and is associated with other gut hormones that can cause nausea."

All of the websites that I've found suggest: eating carbs and protein immediately before or during nursing, such as peanutbutter crackers; keeping well hydrated throughout the day and drinking one or two glasses of water before/during nursing; laying down to nurse; wearing seabands made for motion sickness; expressing milk from over-full breasts before nursing.

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