Taking Care of an Ill Loved One

Lactation Headaches: Causes And Remedies

Occasionally, a nursing mother can get headaches related to breast feeding. These headaches can occur for a variety of reasons. The treatment for a lactation headache depends on the cause. If you're a nursing mother who has recently been getting headaches, knowing why the headaches are occurring can help you avoid the problem in the future. 

Headaches Due to Breast Engorgement

Some mothers get headaches when their breasts become engorged with milk. Breast engorgement is most common when the baby is very young and the supply of milk has not yet stabilized. Breast engorgement can also happen when the baby is being weaned and when the baby starts to sleep through the night. Either way, the best way to get rid of an engorgement related headache is to empty the breasts of milk, either by encouraging the baby to nurse or by using a breast pump. 


Breast feeding requires the mother to drink a lot of extra liquids--much more liquid than would normally be consumed. If enough liquid isn't consumed, the mother can easily become dehydrated. Dehydration is a serious problem that can result in a headache, fever, and nausea. To avoid this problem, drink plenty of fluids, even if you don't feel thirsty. 

If you do start to get a headache due to dehydration, drink water slowly. Lay down and take it easy until the headache goes away. Do not overexert yourself, or you could make the dehydration worse. 

Hormone-Related Headaches

Headaches that occur when the milk lets down are probably related to the rush of the hormone called oxytocin. These headaches usually lessen in a couple months after the birth of the baby, when the supply and demand start to balance out. Some mothers can experience these headaches until their baby is weaned. 

Low doses of acetaminophen or ibuprofen can help this type of headache. For the safety of your baby, avoid taking large doses of any medication. Speak with your doctor to ensure that you're taking a low enough dose that it won't show up in your milk supply.  

Other ways to lessen your headaches, regardless of the cause, include using an ice pack on your head and taking a nap with your baby. Before taking any medications other than acetaminophen and ibuprofen, consult with a healthcare professional. If your headaches continue and do not seem to be related to any of the above causes, speak with your doctor.