You asked and you shall now receive. It’s only fair for us to share all of this stored up knowledge about a baby and what happens once the baby is born until they are no longer called a baby but a toddler! We now will answer, in a very public forum, all of those burning questions about babies and those first 12 months. Each Tuesday, we will tackle a commonly-asked-question from the point of view of a new parent. Chiming in to give her feedback will be an expert who has been there and done that as well as has oodles of professional experience with babies. Earmark, share and add your own input to today’s question; it’s good karma.
Should my personal care change (products I use, beauty treatments) while I’m nursing?
While you were pregnant there was a fairly extensive list of personal care products you were recommended not to use, including most medications and certain foods. This is primarily because during pregnancy whatever you were ingesting or using on your skin was usually transfused to your baby through your blood.
As far as breastfeeding goes the list is not as extensive as in pregnancy. However in general depending upon how “organic or green “ you want to be will influence what personal care products you use while breastfeeding. In regards to personal care products there are no government safety regulations or testing of components and chemicals in these products as there are for food and medications. It is not possible to list and discuss all personal products but I will try to discuss ones commonly used.
Many mothers following pregnancy have problems with acne and use acne medication to treat this problem. Products with Benzoyl Peroxide or Salicylic Acid are for the most part compatible with breastfeeding. These products while absorbed through the skin are mostly metabolized once they enter your body. Proactive, for example which has benzoyl peroxide, is compatible with breastfeeding and better than taking medications by mouth for acne. Before taking any prescribed or over the counter medications you should first consult your obstetrician or pediatrician to see if the medication is safe for breastfeeding. Retin A for acne should be used with caution or not at all. Acutane should never be used with breastfeeding.
As far as hair products including shampoos, dyes, etc there is no evidence based research in the medical literature that says these products are not safe and compatible with breastfeeding.
Sunscreens are not contraindicated with breastfeeding although this product and other personal care products can have harsh chemicals if you use a chemical sunscreen. With sunscreen as with all personal care products it’s healthier and safer in general to use organic products such as zinc oxide rather than chemical ones. Very little of sunscreen is absorbed by your body but harsh and toxic chemical are obviously not good for breastfeeding for both mother and baby. When applying sunscreen to your breasts be careful your breastfeeding infant doesn’t ingest some of the sunscreen. The same is true of self-tanning products. You do not want your baby to ingest these products, which could be harmful to your infant.
Hair removal products should be used cautiously especially if used to remove hair around your nipples as your infant could ingest the product and become ill.
Insect repellant is compatible with breastfeeding for the most part but again do not use on your breast and nipples as your baby could ingest the insect repellant, many of which also have harsh chemicals.
Most fragrances and perfumes have synthetic chemicals. Fragrance is a general term for thousands of chemicals depending upon the fragrance. aby oil with its fragrance for example is 100 percent mineral oil, which is a petroleum derivative, which can be toxic to babies and should not be used by mother or baby with breastfeeding.
Nipple creams should be used with caution with breastfeeding. Vitamin E for example should not be used on nipples while you are breastfeeding since your baby will ingest the Vitamin E and may take in toxic amounts while breastfeeding. Most herbs and essential oils should not be in nipple creams as they are not safe for pregnant and breastfeeding mothers. Nipple creams should also be free of lanolin, which is not safe for babies because it contains pesticides and potential allergens. Safe nipple creams should have organic products since your nipple is going into your baby’s mouth. Nipple creams with olive oil, calendula, shea butter, organic cocoa butter are safe for babies.
Its important to read the ingredients on all personal care products just as you would for food products. It’s important to avoid products with formaldehyde, petroleum products, lead and aluminum while breastfeeding. To summarize, the best things to do is to use all organic products and ingredients with your personal care products.
Expert: Dr. Gina Lamb – Amato MD
Gina is a general pediatrician and developmental pediatrician who works at Village Pediatrics and Agho Medical practices both in Manhattan, NY. She has a masters in child therapy and works with a child psychologist Rosa Vasquez PhD performing office and home consultation for newborns and parents, office and home developmental assessments, school consultations and parent child playgroups where play and art along with baby massage and other techniques are used to help parents bond and support their child’s development. Formerly, Gina was the Director of Pediatric Special Medical Needs before she went into private practice where she cared for medically fragile infants and children. She is also a Early Intervention Pediatrician for Early Intervention which assesses and treats infants from age zero to 3 years. She has extensive experience in Early Head Start programs which work with infants from prenatal to 3 years of age. She is the mother of a beautiful daughter who is 3 years old and the joy of my life. Her husband is an artist, producer and owns Synchronicity Space, a non-profit arts organization that supports emerging artist in fine art and theatre. Finally, she is also an artist who paints mainly babies and children.