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Can Weaning From Breast-feeding Cause Headaches?

author image Jackie Carmichael
Jackie Carmichael has been a freelance writer for more than 10 years. Her work has appeared in "Woman's World" and "American Baby" magazines. Carmichael is a licensed registered nurse and has worked in fields related to cardiovascular health and psychiatry. She also holds a Bachelor of Arts in journalism from The Ohio State University.
Can Weaning From Breast-feeding Cause Headaches?
Weaning abruptly might cause headaches. Photo Credit gpointstudio/iStock/Getty Images

Abrupt weaning can cause rapid hormone fluctuations, which may possibly lead to headaches. There is no medical documentation that directly links weaning with headaches -- though a rapid weaning might also cause a breast infection or abscess, potentially causing a headache, according to BreastfeedingBasics.com. If you develop headaches after weaning, see your doctor for an accurate diagnosis and proper treatment.

Hormones and Lactation

During pregnancy, high estrogen and progesterone levels prepare the breasts for lactation, or milk production. The hormones prolactin and oxytocin stimulate the breasts to produce and secrete milk after lactation, when estrogen and progesterone levels decrease in the body. Oxytocin and prolactin continue to maintain a milk supply and control the ejection of milk until weaning is complete.

Symptoms of Abrupt Weaning

Soon after weaning begins, milk is still being produced by the breasts and being moved through milk ducts but it is not being removed by a suckling baby. Therefore, your breasts become engorged, particularly if you wean abruptly. This breast engorgement can lead to a breast infection called mastitis or to the development of abscesses. These breast conditions can cause fever and possibly a headache. Also, KellyMom.com indicates that the abrupt decrease of the calming hormone prolactin can cause depression and anxiety, which might produce headaches.

How to Slowly Wean

Wean slowly to prevent breast infections and hormone fluctuations that might cause headaches. Eliminate one feeding daily for a few days so that your milk supply gradually decreases. Supplement your baby with the appropriate formula as you wean. If your breasts become engorged during the weaning process, express some milk. After about 14 days, your baby should be down to just two daily feedings. According to BreastfeedingBasics.com, usually the last feedings to end are the first morning feeding and the last night feeding. Eliminate these feedings one at a time. If you need to wean abruptly for medical reasons, ask your doctor to provide ways of reducing weaning symptoms.

Headache Treatment

Headache treatment depends on your type of headache and the cause. The most common headache treatments involve medications that reduce pain, like acetaminophen and ibuprofen. There are prescription medications you can take to relieve migraines and other chronic, intense headaches. If you are still breastfeeding and currently going through the weaning process, check with your doctor before taking any headache-relieving medications.

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