Can Breastfeeding Cause Diarrhea in Mom?

Goodness, this topic and maybe a little sensitive or a little gross talk about. But if you’ve gone through labor and delivery, and you are a mom who’s now changing diapers and talking about poop over tea, talking about a little diarrhea isn’t as embarrassing as it used to be.

Diarrhea is incredibly frustrating, especially if you as the mom are the one to experience it.

Haven’t you gone through enough?

Was it not enough that you pooped yourself in front of a team of doctors and nurses and your husband while giving birth?

Do you really need the extra burden of having to run for the toilet to evacuate your insides when you have so many other things to do?

If you search much on the Internet, you may not notice that there are many articles connecting diarrhea and breastfeeding. In general, if you search for breastfeeding and diarrhea, and general the articles that you will find are related more to the baby having diarrhea in response to drinking breast milk.

Diarrhea is more than just hurry to the bathroom to poop

I can tell you that in general, diarrhea is caused by something external. Perhaps a virus, bacteria, or parasite. You may experience diarrhea and response to some imbalance in your diet, especially if you over consume fruit juices or too much fiber.

Theoretically, breastfeeding and diarrhea shouldn’t be connected.

But I will tell you from my own personal experience that I think there is a connection, though that is not borne out by the articles you find on the internet.

Let’s look at the mechanics of what happens when you nurse your baby

Let’s talk about what happens when you breastfeed your baby. When you breastfeed, your body releases a hormone called oxytocin. If you will recall, oxytocin is a hormone that stimulates your uterus to contract and push out the baby. Does Pitocin sound familiar? It is a synthetic version of oxytocin.

Oxytocin is also a hormone that causes your uterus to flex and contract. Now also think about what happens when you are menstruating, and when you experience cramps. This might be too much information, but in my own personal experience, when I had really bad cramps, I also tended to experience very loose or even watery stools. I wouldn’t go so far as to say that I had the actual medical condition of diarrhea, because it wasn’t something that was happening constantly. I wasn’t evacuating every inch of the tubing inside of my stomach and colon. Instead it just meant that I had to run for the bathroom once or twice until whatever was in there was cleaned up, and it wasn’t watery, it was just loose, looser than normal. And it needed to come out in a hurry.

So while is uncommon for breastfeeding to cause what we would consider to be the clinical definition of diarrhea, I think it is possible and probable that while you are breastfeeding, that you are releasing hormone that is causing some churning to go on in your lower belly area.

This churning around, even if you can’t feel it, could be stimulating your colon to push out whatever is in there, like it does while you are menstruating.

In my own personal experience, I found that I did occasionally have to hotfoot it for the bathroom after or even during nursing because I had to poop.

Is there anything to be done?

But having established an anecdotal connection between breastfeeding and loose stools, is there anything that is to be done about it?

Well, we can’t control the oxytocin and we can’t control the cramping of our insides. What we can control is what we eat, and what we do before we nurse. If you are finding that it is particularly troublesome to have to run to the bathroom during or after nursing, you could try to influence when it is that you nurse in association with whether or not you have evacuated your bowels already for the day.

I know this it’s probably something you can’t control, but if it really is bothering you then you could try.

Another thing that you could do is try to consume more binder foods, meeting foods that have less fiber in them and do more to cause more solid poops. Think about what you might give a child who is experiencing tummy troubles, such as banana, toast, white rice, or applesauce. Take a look at the remainder of your diet as well, are you consuming too much fiber, or perhaps too much blended fruit or vegetable juices. These foods could be contributing to having to race to the bathroom during or after nursing.

I found that over time, I had less bathroom trouble after nursing, especially after I was completely healed from the birth. Perhaps my uterus was churning around less and less, or was taking up less space and bumping my colon less after it returned to it’s pre-baby size.

If things don’t improve, you may have to suffer through this until you are done breastfeeding.

If what you are experiencing seems to be more like diarrhea, in the sense that you are constantly pooping and can’t stop, then the pooping and the breastfeeding probably aren’t connected at all. But if they are close in time, and the pooping is just once, rather than over and over, you’ve probably got a connection there.

And always, as in anything, if you think that you have a medical problem, just give your doc a quick call and let her know so that she can help guide you through it if you need help.

For more info about breastfeeding, check out our Breastfeeding FAQs post: 100 Breastfeeding Tips For New Moms.

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