Why Do My Armpits Smell? 9 Tips for Breastfeeding Moms

Why Do My Armpits Smell? 9 Tips for Breastfeeding Moms

Mar 18 , 2021

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Megan McDonough

Among the many blessings a baby brings, excess sweating is not one of them. 

After giving birth, your body goes through a process of re-regulating itself and getting back to an equilibrium. You might notice that you’re shedding water weight and that the bloating you had in your hands and feet during pregnancy is subsiding. 

The good news is that this process only takes a few months. Still, it’s always good to know what you’re in for! 

Night sweats

Whenever you experience night sweats, it’s your body’s way of protecting you against any sort of impurity or imbalance. In the case of postpartum moms, your body is trying to cleanse itself and it’s doing this through your sweat glands. While this can be uncomfortable, sleep easy (no pun intended) knowing that your body is just taking care of you.  

Breastfeeding 

First off, let’s acknowledge that breastfeeding is truly exercise, so of course you’re going to sweat a little. Don’t forget that breastfeeding can burn around 400 to 500 calories per day, which is no small feat. (pumping is too! You can check out the Lilu Massage Bra to make pumping a little bit easier for yourself).

Lilu Massage Bra with flanges

Lilu Massage Bra

There’s another reason you’re likely to have excess underarm sweat (and emit a stronger smell) and we have evolution to thank. This underarm sweat and scent is a way for your baby to find their food source aka your breast. It’s worth noting that while a baby’s stomach and digestive tract are very delicate at birth, their sense of smell is fully developed. 

One of our Lilu moms noticed that her son still smells her when she sweats. “The moment I walk out of the room he’s sleeping in, he begins to cry.” — Maria G. 

What is actually happening hormonally?

The short answer? A lot! Hormonal changes during pregnancy and postpartum are unique, so unless you’ve given birth before, this will be your first time experiencing a lot of these fluctuations. 

For starters, there’s going to be a sudden increase in estrogen and progesterone and this makes the apocrine sweat much greasier than normal. Apocrine glands are the sweat glands you have in your underarms, breasts, nipples, anal and vaginal regions of the body. 

You’re also carrying around more weight than normal and sweating is your body’s way of cooling itself. Bacteria found on the surface of your skin will come in contact with sweat and start feasting on the proteins, fatty acids and sulphur sweat it contains. This is ultimately what causes body odor. 

How to Manage

If all this sweatiness is getting to you—and we totally get that—there are a few ways to make this transition easier. Here are a few ways to feel more comfortable: 

1. Hydrate. This way, all that liquid will be released through urine and not through your sweat glands.

2. Sleep with a towel. You can keep a towel on hand or even sleep on a towel to protect your sheets. 

“I did this, especially around the back of my neck! I would just get up and feel so sweaty in the middle of the night and then I'd feel like I had to change the sheet asap in the morning. The towel helped, at least it calmed me to know that the sheets weren't all sweaty and smelly.” — Maria G. 

3. Shower regularly. Cool off in the shower so that your body doesn’t need to sweat as a way to ‘cool down.’

4. Carry armpit whipes in your pumping bag. Check out this video from Nurse Zabe (7-minute, 21-second mark) 

5. Apply an unscented deodorant. It’s a great way to better manage a healthy microbiome.

"For me, it was worse the first 2-6 weeks with both my children. After that I'd sweat, and be stinky, but I never felt it was more so than before having kids. I carry a spray bottle with a mixture of water and vinegar (3:1) with me, and I will spray it anywhere on my body that I think stinks. It's also great to get the smell of spit-up, poop and pee off of clothes while you are able to wash it all." — Maria G. 

6. Shave your armpits. Remember, hair traps sweat and sweat contains proteins, fatty acids and sulphur, and this is what bacteria eats. 

7. Avoid foods rich in sulphur. (i.e. red meat and spices like cumin) and cruciferous veggies (cauliflower, broccoli, brussel sprouts, cabbage, etc.)

8. Avoid alcohol. Drinking alcohol affects the nervous system as well as the circulatory system.  It increases your heart rate and widens blood vessels in your skin, which can cause sweating. 

9. Avoid stimulants. Coffee, for example, increases the activity of apocrine sweat glands.

The good thing to remember is that this stage is only temporary. The first couple of months might be the toughest, but after about a year postpartum, your body is pretty much back in balance and you’ll notice that includes your sweat glands. 

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