The end of a pregnancy also signals the end of several restrictions for pregnant women, whether they are dietary or medical. Cosmetics are no exception. But what happens if one decides to breastfeed? Here are some elements of response.
Breastfeeding and Cosmetics: What are the Changes?
Breastfeeding, in a nutshell.
Breastfeeding is the method of feeding an infant or child with mother's milk through the mother's breast. Following childbirth, there is a gradual secretion of prolactin. This hormone allows the mammary glands to secrete colostrum, a thick orange to yellow liquid, highly nutritious for the baby. The milk supply then typically comes in about three days after childbirth, under the influence of the oxytocin. Synthesised by the pituitary gland, a small gland located at the base of the brain, it indeed plays a role in breastfeeding by promoting the ejection of milk.
Initiated a few hours after the baby's birth, breastfeeding can then continue until they are approximately two years old. In reality, there is no standard regarding the duration of breastfeeding, it is rather a choice, with each woman having a different experience. However, paediatricians advise feeding the child exclusively with milk until they are 6 months old before diversifying their diet.
Breastfeeding and Cosmetics: What are the Risks?
It would be mistaken to think that topical cosmetic treatments have no effect on the baby once it has left its mother's womb. Indeed, it must be considered that, during the first few months, the child has a strong need for physical contact with its mother. This is even more true if the woman decides to breastfeed. In doing so, it is entirely possible for the baby to ingest the products previously applied to the mother's skin.
It should also be noted that certain treatments could mix with breast milk when applied to the breasts. This is particularly true for firming creams or those intended for stretch marks. That's why it's important to pay close attention to the cosmetics one chooses during breastfeeding.
Note : these recommendations also apply to the co-parent. Indeed, even if they are not breastfeeding, they are also in close contact with their baby's skin. Therefore, they should also pay attention to the composition of their skincare products.
Active ingredients to avoid during breastfeeding.
As a precautionary principle, cosmetics that are not recommended during pregnancy are also discouraged during the breastfeeding period.
Thus, in order to avoid any risk to the baby, the use of certain active ingredients is contraindicated. This is particularly the case for retinoids, a family of molecules with anti-inflammatory and smoothing properties. Among the most commonly used retinoids are retinol, retinal and tretinoin. These compounds are not recommended for pregnant or breastfeeding women as they are teratogenic, meaning they increase the risk of malformation in the child. Indeed, according to a study, a small proportion of topically applied retinoids are found in breast milk.
Similarly, the use of essential oils is discouraged, as a precautionary principle. Indeed, some are neurotoxic and can lead to respiratory problems and nausea. However, it is important to put these facts into perspective as they do not apply to all essential oils. For instance, oils from Roman chamomile, lemon eucalyptus, true lavender, neroli or tea tree do not pose any risk.
EINARSON A. & al. Safety of skin care products during pregnancy. Canadian Family Physician (2011).
MURASE J. & al. Safety of dermatologic medications in pregnancy and lactation: Part II. Lactation. Journal of the American Academy of Dermatology (2014).