Hypothyroidism and Breastfeeding

Thyroid hormones play an important role in metabolism and the deficiency of thyroid hormones is termed as hypothyroidism. The body undergoes many changes during pregnancy and hormonal imbalance is common. There are chances of temporary or permanent effects on thyroid hormone production after delivery. Hypothyroidism can be observed after the baby is delivered. However, when hypothyroidism and breastfeeding happen together, many moms are concerned.

hypothyroidism and breastfeeding

Signs of Hypothyroidism While Breastfeeding

Thyroid hormone levels tend to fluctuate during pregnancy and there is a chance of developing hypothyroidism. If your thyroid hormone levels are low you can have difficulty in breastfeeding and there can be less production of milk. Other symptoms of hypothyroidism are:

  • A feeling of tiredness and fatigue
  • Loss of appetite
  • Cold intolerance
  • Depression
  • Thin and brittle hair
  • Coarse dry skin
  • Change in voice

Most of these symptoms are commonly noticed by breastfeeding mothers and are also associated with postpartum depression and postpartum fatigue. If you notice any of these, do not ignore them and discuss with your doctor about thyroid testing. If you are already taking medication for hypothyroidism, you might need some dose adjustment but do not increase the dose by yourself.

Adequate thyroid hormone replacement will make you feel better and breastfeeding will be easier once hypothyroidism is corrected.

Can You Breastfeed If You're Hypothyroid?

There is no harm in breastfeeding your child if you are under treatment for hypothyroidism and breastfeeding can be continued with thyroid replacement therapy. Thyroxine which is prescribed to treat hypothyroidism is safe for breastfeeding mothers and a very minute quantity is secreted in breast milk. Once the thyroid hormone levels are adequate the amount of breast milk returns to normal. And when the thyroid hormone deficiency is corrected adequately other symptoms like tiredness and fatigue also get much better.

Care must be taken to keep the levels of thyroid hormone in normal limits. If hypothyroidism is over corrected and the thyroid hormone levels rise well above the normal limit, they can be secreted in breast milk and can cause problems for the baby. For that reason, do not increase the dose of your medicine by yourself.

It is also very important to keep on taking the medicine and if you are not taking it regularly or stop taking it abruptly, you can have severe symptoms of hypothyroidism and breastfeeding will become more challenging due to lack of milk production.

Thyroid hormones play an important role in breast development and milk production and a lack of these can lead to reduced milk availability for the baby. Nursing becomes more difficult in hypothyroidism because the let-down reflex, which allows the milk to be secreted, is also impaired.

Tips for Breastfeeding with Hypothyroidism

The levels of thyroid hormone can fluctuate a lot after delivery and it is crucial to monitor them more closely if you are taking any medication for hypothyroidism. Ideally these levels should be tested after every three months but if you are having any serious symptoms these can be done earlier.

If you are taking medication for hypothyroidism and breastfeeding, here are a few helpful tips for you:

  • Do visit your doctor regularly and follow their advice regarding the management of your condition, tell them about any new symptoms and remind them that you are breastfeeding.
  • Take your medication as prescribed. The medicine Levothyroxine, used for the treatment of hypothyroidism, is safe for nursing mothers.
  • To stimulate milk production you can use a breast pump after feeding your baby. Using a breast pump in between feeding intervals also helps to increase milk production naturally.
  • There are many herbs which stimulate and increase milk production like fenugreek, fennel and blessed thistle. It is better to talk to your lactation nurse or doctor before taking them.
  • Drink nursing tea.
  • Have a balanced diet and keep yourself well hydrated. Drink plenty of fluids and eat dairy products.
  • Nursing supplementation devices are available which help to keep the baby at the breast. They are very useful when you are trying to build up the milk supply.
  • Talk to your doctor about any concerns you have and get your baby tested for any thyroid hormone imbalance.

What If You're Hyperthyroid?

The thyroid gland can become overactive as well and can lead to hyperthyroidism. Hyperthyroidism can lead to an abundance of milk production but the let-down reflex slows down making breastfeeding challenging. Other symptoms of over active thyroid gland are: 

  • Ÿ   An anxious feeling
  • Ÿ   Being jittery or nervous
  • Ÿ   Palpitations and very fast heart beat
  • Ÿ   A noticeably enlarged thyroid gland in the neck
  • Ÿ   Difficulty in going to sleep and insomnia
  • Ÿ   Weight loss despite good appetite
  • Ÿ   Inability to put on weight
  • Ÿ   Heat intolerance
  • Ÿ   Sweating
  • Ÿ   Trembling hands and fingers

If you experience any of these symptoms, contact your doctor immediately for evaluation of your thyroid gland function. The treatment of hyperthyroidism is either medication or surgery.

Anti-Thyroid Medication

There are certain medications which slow down the production of thyroid hormones. These include propylthiouracil and methimazole. These are safe for nursing mothers and you can continue to breastfeed if you are taking these. A very minute quantity of these medicines is secreted in breast milk and there is no risk to the baby.


The surgical option is thyroidectomy or the removal of thyroid gland. The procedure is safe in expert hands and you can resume breastfeeding your baby as soon as you feel better.

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