Tingling in breasts is one of the changes your body goes through during pregnancy to accommodate the baby. Even before you give birth, your body prepares your breasts for breastfeeding. Breast milk will be your baby’s sole source of nutrition during the first six months of their life. Therefore, breast milk is produced around the clock by the milk ducts (lactiferous ducts) and brain hormones. This could be the cause of the tingling sensation in your breasts.
Read this post to know why your breasts tingle during breastfeeding, if it is normal, what creates this sensation, and how to deal with it.
What Causes Tingling In Breasts While Breastfeeding?
Tingling in the breasts is caused by the milk ejection reflex, which is also called milk let-down (1). The sensation feels like “pins & needles,” and it is one of the first signs that the milk is released (2). Breasts may also feel warm or cold during milk let-down.
Milk ejection reflex occurs when the pituitary gland releases two hormones namely prolactin and oxytocin. Prolactin stimulates breast milk production, while Oxytocin causes the milk ducts to contract and release the milk. The ejection of the milk down the ducts is called milk let-down (3).
Several physiological changes in the breast tissue during milk letdown can lead to tingling within the breasts.
Is It Normal For Breasts To Tingle During Lactation?
Yes. Most breastfeeding moms experience tingling due to milk let-down. However, tingling could happen due to other reasons as well.
What Other Reasons Cause The Tingling?
Other factors such as an infection like mastitis or thrush may cause tingling along with a burning sensation and pain in the breasts. Tingling is often a direct symptom of a rare form of breast cancer called Paget’s disease of the breast (4). Paget’s disease causes other symptoms like the reddening of the nipple and intense itching of the areola.
The other reasons for tingling are usually persistent while let-down reflex occurs in fixed cycles. Also, tingling due to milk let-down is less likely to be uncomfortable when compared to the tingling caused by an underlying health problem. But you may have to see a physician in some cases.
When Should You See A Doctor For Tingling In Breasts?
See a doctor when you have the following symptoms along with tingling:
- Burning sensation
- Change in the shape of the nipple
- Reddening of the nipple; development of an eczema-like rash on or around the areola
- Lump in the breast or dimpling of the breasts
- Nipple discharge; a non-milk liquid oozing out of the nipple
- Pain in the breasts
You must also see a doctor when you are unable to breastfeed due to the tingling sensation in the breasts. More often than not, tingling during lactation is a sign of milk ejection reflex instead of any other problem. Regular tingling due to the milk let-down is quite manageable right at home.
How To Manage Tingling Of Breasts At Home?
A few simple home remedies can help you deal with the tingling of the breasts:
- Use warm compress: Soak a clean towel in warm water and place it on the affected breast for five minutes. Warm compresses have a soothing effect on the breast tissue. Medical experts often recommend warm compresses and warm showers as a means to ease breast engorgement (5). A warm compress can thus help ease pins & needles sensation as well.
- Massage your breasts: Massage the breasts in straight, gentle strokes from the top of the breast to the nipple. You can also perform slow, gentle strokes on the breast itself. Massage promotes the free flow of milk through the ducts and may help provide relief from tingling.
- Feed the baby as per schedule: Sometimes, the only thing you need to do is feed your baby as per schedule. Newborns always feed on demand, regardless of what time of the day it is. On an average, a newborn feeds about 8-12 times in 24 hours with an average gap of three hours between two feeds (6).
Try to establish a routine gradually. Once you have a fixed schedule, things get more comfortable. Your breast milk production and let-down align with the baby’s feeding pattern thus mitigating any discomfort caused by it.
Tingling in breasts often occurs due to the milk ejection reflex when you have a breastfeeding baby. The hormones and milk duct stimulation cause the pins and needles sensation, and it is seldom a cause for concern or a source of discomfort. However, other underlying health conditions such as infections or Paget’s disease may also be responsible. Check with your doctor if tingling is causing you discomfort or is associated with other symptoms such as a lump, discharge, or burning sensation.
Infographic: Can Tingling In Breasts Indicate Something Serious?
Tingling in the breasts is often experienced due to pain, which can be due to various reasons. Some conditions, such as hormonal issues, may cause cyclical pain, and other issues may cause non-cyclical pain or tingling. Go through the infographic to learn facts about breast tingling.
Did you experience tingling while breastfeeding? Tell us how you dealt with the condition in the comment section below.
2. Transitional milk and mature milk; Healthy children
3. Breast Milk Production; Sutter Health Network
4. Paget Disease of the Breast; National Cancer Institute
5. S Arora, M Vatsa, and V Dadhwal; A Comparison of Cabbage Leaves vs. Hot and Cold Compresses in the Treatment of Breast Engorgement; Indian J Community Med.(2008)
6. How Often to Breastfeed; Sutter Health Network
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Melissa Kotlen(BSN, RN, IBCLC)
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