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Your Quick Guide to Summer Skincare and Breastfeeding

Woman in straw hat sitting on sunny beach breastfeeding.

You’re wanting to battle the bugs, avoid the sunburn, and enjoy the summer. But what products are you using, and should you be more careful about summer skincare and breastfeeding?

Maybe.

Big disclaimer here, Big. I’m not a toxicologist.

I’m here to give you a little information, and to help you think through some angles you might not have otherwise considered.

Sunscreen

One of the first things that comes to mind for summer skincare and breastfeeding is the safety of sunscreen. As you know, the medical community strongly recommends sunscreen.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends keeping babies under 6 months out of direct sunlight. Sunscreen can be used on children older than 6 months, but watch for skin irritation or rashes.

As with all creams and lotions, breastfeeding mothers should use caution in what they apply to their breasts. While you may not apply sunscreen directly to your nipples, products do migrate because of sweat, and again, babies are sensitive to smells. Look at the product ingredients, and cleanse the area prior to nursing.

Bug spray

Especially if you plan to go camping, you need to know about the safety of summer skincare and breastfeeding when it comes to insect repellant. You might be wondering about DEET (diethyltoluamide). Decades of research have shown its effectiveness against ticks, mosquitos, other bugs, and all the diseases they carry. 

No one doubts is efficacy. Its safety for humans, while confirmed by many, has been seriously questioned by others.

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends not using any DEET product on children under 2 years old.

Perhaps the most popular DEET-containing product is some varieties of OFF!™ but there more than 120 products that contain DEET. Here are more details about DEET.

But maybe your question is more about your pregnancy or your milk. 

Personally, I wouldn’t go near this stuff if I were pregnant or lactating.

In one study, exposure to DEET-containing products during pregnancy was associated with lower fetal birth weights and lengths. We need much more research to confirm or refute the safety of DEET during pregnancy.

Insecticides and other pesticides are lipophilic (fat-loving). In general, breastfeeding mothers are discouraged from exposure to any product that is lipophilic. Human milk is a fatty substance, hence a lipophilic product likes to stick to the milk.

Perhaps the most compelling reason not to use a DEET-containing product is one clearly-known fact: It’s stinky! Babies often refuse to breastfeed when they are exposed to a noxious odor.

There are plenty of non-DEET products including:

If you’ve already had an insect bite, there are many home remedies you can use.

Summer skincare and breastfeeding doesn’t need to be daunting. It’s mostly about paying attention to the ingredients.

You can also buy natural products. I use a product called Thyme Out. I’ve found it immediately relieves me of the discomfort of an insect bite. I also use it for a little patch of eczema on my hand. (And that’s been flaring up with the seemingly nonstop handwashing during the pandemic!)

Aloe preparations

Many people use aloe preparations on their skin after they have been in the sun. As far as I know, these are safe when used externally.

The U.S. Food & Drug Administration (FDA) here in the United States has put aloe on the list of items that are Generally Recognized as Safe (GRAS).  The GRAS list is generally reassuring, even for those who are pregnant or lactating.

You might want to read a credible review of aloe products.

Essential oils?

Essential oils have been used for centuries for all sorts of things, including relief from insect bites. Over the last few years, the use of essential oils has skyrocketed, so you might be thinking about essential oils as part of your routine. But when it comes to summer skincare and breastfeeding, there are a few things to be aware of.

Lavender is one of the most frequently-used essential oils. One source says that lavender oil can actually repel mosquitoes, be combined with other essential oils such as citronella, and even provide some antibacterial benefits.

I’ve given some information in a blog and on my podcast. If you need to earn CERPs to maintain your IBCLC certification or contact hours to maintain your nursing license, get my Essential Oils & Breastfeeding CE Package.

Here are a few common-sense cautions, but I’ll list them anyway:

  • Don’t put creams or lotions on your nipples.
  • Avoid any products that have a peculiar smell.
  • Remember that a baby’s nose is more sensitive than yours. That may be a reason why breast refusal suddenly happens.
  • There are some essential oils which you can use freely, and others that require caution.

I’ve probably only scratched the surface here when it comes to summer skincare and breastfeeding.

What have I forgotten to mention? Let me know in the comments below!

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