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Breast Feeding

Breastfeeding and hives

01/09/2006

Question:

Hello, I would like to know if there if a connection with breastfeeding and breaking out in hives...I broke out in hives shortly after giving birth and have had them for over 2 months...I was given a steroids shot and medication to stop the ich but they still exist...I constantly get clogged milk ducts on my right breast and wondered if this is common and also if it related...(the hives and clogged milk ducts) Thank you!

Answer:

What an interesting question - lactation causing hives. My initial reaction was there is "no way" a woman could have an "allergic reaction" to breastfeeding. Lawrence & Lawerence in their book, Breastfeeding: A Guide for the Medical Profession (5th ed.) state, "Urticaria (hives or itching) reported during lactation usually occurs at the onset of let-down. The itching may be intense. Some relief has been achieved by medicating the mother about 15 minutes before breastfeeding with antihistamines. An alternative is a low-dose, sustained release antihistamine preparation such as loratadine (Claritin), which does pass into milk but at levels less than 0.03% of the maternal dose. Because it dries mucous membranes and decreasessecretions, such a preparation could decrease milk supply over time." (p. 549). Exact cause of uticaria (hives)associated with let down is unknown, but it could be caused by the sudden increase in hormones (especially oxytocin) which occurs with let-down.

The clogged ducts are probably not related to the hives (though the hives could be an "allergic reaction" to the breastmilk) but more likely are caused by incomplete emptying of the breast. Many women have more difficulty feeding on the right breast than the left. Therefore it is important that the right breast is suckled as often and as long as the left breast. Alternate breast on which feedings start & let your little one suckle until the breast is completely empty, at least 20-30 minutes. A second cause of clogged milk ducts isan improperly fitting bra which puts pressure on the ducts causing blockage. Be sure your bra is big enough not to cause pressure points.

Thank you for your question. It was very interesting to learn that hives could be caused by breastfeeding. I hope the hives are resolving and you can continue to breastfeed your little one.

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Response by:

Barbara   Morrison, PhD, CNM, FNP Barbara Morrison, PhD, CNM, FNP
Assistant Professor of Nursing
Frances Payne Bolton School of Nursing
Case Western Reserve University