Answer: Headaches while nursing are an uncommon, but not abnormal occurrence. Headaches like migraines, which are caused by sensitivity to hormones, are usually less severe and occur less frequently during lactation.
There are two basic types of headaches that occur while you’re breastfeeding: One type occurs at the beginning of the feeding due to the surge of oxytocin that causes the milk to ‘let down’ ; the second type typically occurs when the breast gets too full and becomes engorged. Usually, this type goes away when you empty the breast by nursing or pumping.
It’s not uncommon to have these headaches for no apparent reason. They tend to be worse during the early stages of nursing, when the breastmilk is just coming in, and then let up as the baby gets older and your supply ‘settles down’ to meet the demand. They can also be triggered when nursing an older baby, if the breasts get overly full – for example, when the baby starts sleeping through the night.
They do tend to lessen with time, and they often occur with one baby and not the next. You can treat the headache with ice packs and by resting with your baby. If they continue or worsen, check with your doctor to see if something else is going on to cause them.
If your doctor decides that you need medical treatment with one of the OTC ) medications commonly use to treat headaches, such as NSAIDs (Advil or Aleve) or prescription drugs like Inderal or Imitrex, they are considered compatible with BF. Some other treatments are not recommended because they can lower prolactin levels, and affect your milk supply.
Anne Smith, IBCLC