Ooh, That Smell: What to Do About Body Odor While Breastfeeding

It’s been a while since I’ve breastfed my daughters, who are now at that age where they don’t like to be called my babies.

But even still, I remember some instances of smelly armpits while breastfeeding. A friend who wishes to stay anonymous says that her breast milk smells like body odor and even told me her nipples smell like onions while breastfeeding!

Some of that is her perception, but the reality is that body odor while breastfeeding is quite common. So, if you think you’ve got bad B.O. while breastfeeding, this post is for you!

I’ll tell you what to do about postpartum body odor during your breastfeeding era, how long it will last, and what you can do about it!

Why has my body odor changed since I started breastfeeding?

In a word: hormones. Your hormones, which I’ve been talking a lot about lately, have changed a lot during your pregnancy and are now trying to get back to normal in your postpartum phase.

baby cries while breastfeeding

Estrogen and progesterone make the apocrine sweat you normally have taken on a greasier texture. The apocrine glands are sweat glands that are present under your arms, in your breasts and nipples and in your anal and vaginal areas.

Now, add to this that you’ve got extra weight on you from growing a baby inside of you for 9 months. Your body is working extra hard to keep you cool, and as you know, sweat is its natural way to do this.

But you also have bacteria on the surface of your skin. When you start sweating, that bacteria digs into the various substances released from your sweat, from proteins to fatty acids to sulfur. And THIS is what causes that breastfeeding B.O.

There’s something even more fascinating to know about breastfeeding body odor, though.

Newborn babies have a finely-tuned sense of smell. Hearing and eyesight are limited, but that tiny little nose knows!

This increase in body odor postpartum and breastfeeding helps your baby because she can sniff you out. She will turn toward the smell, an evolutionary function that allows her to gravitate toward your breasts and start feeding.

But no, she doesn’t find you smelly. In case you were wondering!

Does breastfeeding cause body odor?

Because of the hormones your body emits postpartum, and for creating that precious breastmilk, you do emit a bit more of an odor. But as I just mentioned, this is a good thing, for it helps your baby find your breast.

If you’re wondering why do my armpits smell while breastfeeding, this is precisely the reason!

Can I use underarm deodorant while breastfeeding?

Short answer: Yes!

It’s a good question, so don’t feel bad about asking. Your baby is snuggled up close to you while breastfeeding. So, it stands to reason that she will pick up on the smell coming from your underarm deodorant too.

And as you know, your skin soaks in all the things it comes into contact with. So it gets into your body and your milk. While the lymphatic system does help remove some chemicals, overloading it is never a good thing.

Though fragrance is an even larger concern, you may be concerned about aluminum, parabens, and propylene glycol in your deodorant. Who knows WHAT is in that chemical concoction?

While recent studies show that aluminum content in deodorant doesn’t increase its content in breastfeeding mothers, you may want to go a more natural route. That’s because of the fragrances.

Look for an underarm deodorant that is certified organic and uses organic essential oils. These smell good on their own without any chemicals and will give you an extra measure of freshness so you won’t feel like you stink to high heavens.

Earth Mama deodorants are a great choice if you’re looking for these specific things. They are formulated especially for women that are breastfeeding or pregnant. They’re also excellent for anyone with sensitive skin.

How to get rid of body odor while breastfeeding?

In addition to using underarm deodorant, there are a few other things you can do to handle the stinky sweaty situation at hand. But before I tell you that, I want you to know that THIS WON’T LAST FOREVER. I promise. Your hormones will balance out, and your baby will grow. This will mean less need for you to emit such a strong smell to bring the baby to your breast.

  • Drink more water

If you’re not hydrating enough, you’ll release liquid through your skin. You can release it through your pee when you drink enough water and minimize your smell.

  • Shower often
taking shower with hand shower

Especially if you live in a hot climate or summertime, take a nice lukewarm shower. It will help you feel cooler and refresh all at once.

  • Wipe it up

These safe wipes can help you refresh when you’re far from your shower or busy breastfeeding and can’t get up.

  • Don’t forget to shave

Hahaha, I know, I know…it is hard to remember all kinds of things right now but when you’re in the shower, take like 10 seconds to shave your armpits. Having any hair growth, there will trap sweat and smells.

  • Avoid eating and drinking certain things

Foods rich in sulfur like red, broccoli, cabbage, and cauliflower can make you produce more of an odor. Caffeine and alcohol also can lead to sweating, so take care to minimize your consumption of these things.

Give it a few months as your body adjusts to the postpartum period. Once your hormones balance out, you’ll notice things are less smelly overall.

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