Breastfeeding is like a workout for babies, and just like adults sweat when they exercise, babies sweat while breastfeeding. Sweating or perspiration is the body’s way of keeping itself cool by sending excess heat out of the body. Sweating may happen anywhere on the body, but it is most common on the head, scalp, under the arms, on palms, and the soles of feet (1). Read this post as we explain the causes, management, and signs you need to see a doctor if you notice your baby sweating more than usual when they breastfeed.
Do Babies Sweat When Feeding?
Some babies do sweat while breastfeeding. If the baby’s body temperature rises due to some reason, then the sweat glands release sweat. Certain health conditions might also cause sweating while breastfeeding.
Not all babies sweat while breastfeeding. Read on to know more about the likely causes.
Why Do Babies Sweat While Breastfeeding?
If your baby is sweating during feeding, then it does not mean that there is always a pathological reason for that. A baby might sweat for the following general physiological reasons:
1. Skin-to-skin contact
2. Room temperature
High room temperature can make a baby uncomfortable and overheated. It can also lead to sweating.
3. Excess covering
Parents may cover the baby in blankets to keep them warm. At times, the mother might cover herself and the baby while breastfeeding in public. Placing a cover over the baby’s stroller or car seat makes it warmer for the baby, even if the cover is thin and breathable. This can overheat the baby and may cause sweating.
4. Warm clothes
Covering the baby in warm clothes can increase body temperature and cause sweating. Making the baby wear a cap during the feeding session might cause sweating on the head.
5. Remaining in the same position
If the baby is held in the same position for a long time, then it may cause overheating and sweating on the part of the baby’s body that is in contact with your skin.
Why Does The Baby’s Head Sweat While Breastfeeding?
In babies, sweat glands are concentrated on the forehead and scalp, thus leading them to sweat more in these regions. The sweat glands gradually develop on the chest, limbs, followed by other parts of the body (2).
When To Consult A Doctor?
See the doctor in the following scenarios.
- The baby gets tired too soon and does not eat enough or the baby falls asleep right after starting the feed. Consult a lactation consultant IBCLC to assess a feeding and discuss ways to stimulate the baby to actively suckle at the breast.
- They do not gain enough weight. Reach out to a lactation consultant to assess how breastfeeding is going and identify the cause for slow and/or no weight gain.
- The baby experiences shortness of breath or labored breathing, or gasps for air while breathing.
- There is a blue tint on the baby’s skin, probably indicating that they have less oxygen in the circulating blood.
How To Reduce Sweating While Breastfeeding?
The following tips might help reduce sweating in a baby during breastfeeding.
- Dress the baby in loose and comfortable clothes. The baby’s clothes should be compatible and suitable for the weather or ambient temperature.
- Choose breathable cotton fabric clothes for your baby. Do not dress them in fabrics like polyester.
- Avoid wearing woolen or polyester clothes yourself while feeding the baby.
- Do not put layers of blankets over the baby while breastfeeding. Instead, use a soft and breathable nursing cover.
- Do not cover the baby’s head while you are breastfeeding them. Putting caps and mittens on the baby might cause excessive sweating.
- Feed the baby in a well-ventilated room. Keep the temperature of the room comfortable (3).
If none of the tips help in the reduction or management of sweating in babies, then see a pediatrician or a certified lactation consultant.
Does Sweating While Nursing Indicate A Health Issue?
Baby sweating while breastfeeding is not always a cause of concern, but in some cases, excess sweating might indicate an underlying condition. The following are the possible health conditions that might make your baby sweat while feeding.
2. Thyroid issue
Hyperthyroidism occurs when the thyroid gland makes too much thyroid hormone (thyroxine). Excessive thyroid hormone increases metabolism and may cause excessive sweating, along with other symptoms such as weight loss, rapid heartbeat, etc. (5)
3. Congenital heart disease
Congenital heart diseases occur when a baby’s heart does not form properly during the fetal stage. It may cause a variety of conditions and disorders that affect heart function. Babies with congenital heart diseases display symptoms such as fatigue, chronic crying, rapid breathing, and excessive sweating (6).
Frequently Asked Questions
1. When do babies start sweating?
Most babies born after 36 weeks of gestation start sweating from the first day of birth itself (7).
2. How do you tell if a newborn is overheated?
The following tips can help you understand whether or not your baby is overheated (8):
- Feeling the back of their neck and checking whether or not it is sweaty
- Using a thermometer to check their temperature accurately
- The baby is being fussy
Babies sweat while breastfeeding for various reasons, including increased body temperature due to skin-to-skin contact, warm clothes, excessive covering, warm climate, or remaining in the same position for a longer time. These conditions can be managed by changing room temperature or clothing. It is recommended to seek medical care if your baby has sweating and breathing troubles, turns blue, is not gaining weight, or becomes tired from feeding. These symptoms can indicate hyperhidrosis, thyroid issues, and cardiac issues in babies, and sweating may disappear after managing the underlying causes.
2. K. G. Foster, E. N. Hey And G. Katz, The Response Of The Sweat Glands Of The New-Born Baby To Thermal Stimuli And To Intradermal Acetylcholine; The Journal of Physiology
3. The safest room temperature for babies; The Lullaby Trust
4. Hyperhidrosis; The Children’s Hospital of Philadelphia
5. Hyperthyroidism; Boston Children’s Hospital
6. Diagnosing Congenital Heart Defects in Children; Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital
7. Sweating in preterm babies; The Journal Of Pediatrics; ScienceDirect
8. Is My Baby Too Hot or Too Cold?; Mount Sinai Parenting Center