Why My Armpits Sting When I Breastfeed
Breastfeeding is one of the most loving acts a mother can do for her child. It has innumerable benefits beyond nutrition, ranging from protection against infections to the psychological development of the baby and even positively impacts the health of the mother.
Lactaring a newborn carries anatomical and hormonal changes in the mother that can be translated, depending on the constitution and habits of each woman, in discomfort, almost always transient, but that can detract from the important work of breastfeeding. In this article, we answer the question: why do my armpits sting when I breastfeed?
Breast changes during pregnancy and lactation
The breasts are made up of a very important specialized tissue, the ultimate purpose of which is to feed the baby. Each breast is formed on the outside by a nipple surrounded by the areola and by a fold of skin that contains connective tissue, mammary glands and excretory ducts that will carry the milk to the nipple. Its external appearance of soft mass is given by the fatty tissue that conforms, which varies in quantity from one woman to another.
Breast tissue begins to form from the fifth week of embryonic development and will undergo a series of transformations throughout the life of women in terms of size, shape and role. Undoubtedly, the most obvious change, after the increase in size that occurs at puberty, occurs when the breasts fulfill their nutritional function. One of the most obvious changes is the increase in size that begins during pregnancy. In general, breasts weigh about 200 g but when they are producing milk, they can multiply their weight up to 600 or 800 g. This implies that the skin will stretch significantly, which can cause stretch marks to appear and be itchy, a symptom that can be reduced by applying moisturizers or mild oils, such as sweet almonds.
The nipple will also increase in size and, in addition, the hormones will make the color of the nipple and the areola darker in order that the baby find it more easily to catch the suckling. Since milk production needs the blood circulation, the whole area of the breast will be more vascularized and the blood vessels will be very noticeable through the skin. Montgomery glands are also thickened, which deal with the lubrication of the skin of the breasts.
Why do my armpits sting when I breastfeed? causes
In normal conditions, when adulthood arrives, the breast tissue is located from the axilla to the breasts properly. This branch is known as Spence Tail, axillary process or superoextreme tail. Certain studies claim that it exists in 95% of women. This breast tissue is connected to the central mammary system and reacts like the rest of the breast to the hormonal stimuli, being able to also suffer the same diseases.
This explains in part why the armpits sting when I breastfeed. The itching could be due to a mammary obstruction, mastitis or dermatitis in the area of the Spence Tail . Usually, these diseases affect the nipple and its immediate surroundings but undoubtedly can also occur in that area more distal of the breast. The symptoms that also accompany these conditions will depend on each one:
Dermatitis: Various reasons like use of absorbent protectors, synthetic fiber fasteners, stress, hormones, among others, can give rise to this dermatological condition while breastfeeding. It is characterized by irritation and inflammation of the area by rubbing or an allergic reaction. Usually, some topical treatment is applied.
Breast obstruction: occurs when one of the ducts is blocked with a milk stopper due to sometimes an elongation of time between intake and intake, insufficient sucking or even a poor position of the baby when breastfeeding. It causes burning, pain, inflammation and redness of the area. It can help to decongest the area by applying heat, massaging and changing the baby’s position. This occurs most often in the projection of the breast into the armpit.
Mastitis: Failure to relieve the obstruction of the breast can lead to an infection in the area that will be accompanied by an increase in body temperature and increased discomfort. It is necessary to continue implementing methods for the milk to flow, but antibiotics will also be necessary.
Earlier, we also mentioned that the itching in the skin can be exacerbated by the stretching of the same due to the increase of size of the breasts. On the other hand, the levels of hormones in women increase as the baby is having higher requirements of milk derived from its development. This hormonal increase can also cause some underarm itching as a reaction of the body, it happens because the breasts adjust the quality and quantity of milk they produce for the infant as it grows. Read article Why Do my Nipples Hurt When I Touch Them?
Malformation of the breasts
In addition to Spence’s tail, which is the normal tissue connected to the central mammary system, there are malformations of the breast that are characterized by the presence of residual mammary tissue in the armpits. All residual breast tissue will also be stimulated by female hormones throughout the woman’s life. Because of this, it is common for the person to notice that he has residual breast tissue from puberty and especially during pregnancy and breastfeeding when the tissue is activated under the effects of female hormones.
In some women, there may also be traces of this tissue along both milk lines (two bands of glandular tissue located on the sides of the midline of the embryo, whose cells will give birth to the breasts). This residual tissue can develop in different ways, in fact, nipples and residual breast tissue that stimulate and produce milk can also appear, as it will also be stimulated by female hormones. The changes that residual tissue will experience during pregnancy and the nursing period will depend on the type and amount present. These congenital malformations of the breast are frequent and may occur in up to 10% of the population, both in men and women, although they are more frequent in the latter.