Breastfeeding comes with a wide range of benefits, including unmatched nutritional value for your little one and maximum bonding time. But what happens when you stop breastfeeding? Usually, another shift in hormones means another wide range of body changes, potentially resulting in depression, PMS, fatigue, and mood swings. Oh, and another big one? Acne. A lot of moms face post-breastfeeding skin issues, so if you're experiencing acne after weaning, please know that you are not alone.
According to La Leche League, a sudden or abrupt stop in breastfeeding can lead to a host of problems, not the least of them is a face full of hormonal acne. Today's Parent describes the changes a "skyrocketing progesterone and estrogen fluctuations" that "lead to increased sebum production and clogged pores." The look of hormonal breakouts, Today's Parent adds, are akin to "raised red bumps that can be painful to touch." The frequency and duration of the breakouts vary and depend on the person, so some post-breastfeeding moms experience infrequent break outs, while others face persistent bouts of acne. Thankfully, two to four weeks is a typical amount of time for the hormones to settle back to a previous state.
Dr. Mary Davenport, OB-GYN tells the California Association of Natural Family Planning that it takes awhile after weaning for the hormones to return to what they were before a pregnancy and/or breastfeeding. An increase in progesterone can, in turn, lead to more oil production that can result in acne. Cystic acne is commonplace among mothers, breastfeeding or not, due the increased hormones during pregnancy. Dr. Elizabeth Tanzi, Founder and Director of Capital Laser & Skin Care and Assistant Clinical Professor at the Department of Dermatology at the George Washington University Medical Center, tells Teen Vogue cystic acne "leaves scars and needs to be treated correctly."
Another potential cause of post-weaning breakout could be undiagnosed Polycystic Ovarian Syndrome (PCOS) which, according to PCOS.com, affects five to 10 percent of women in the childbearing ages. But, again, it all comes down to your hormones and whether or not they're balanced or not.
If you're looking to treat post-breastfeeding acne, it's important to start by checking your stress level. Added stress can negatively affect how clear your skin is. Studies show periods of increased stress correlated with more breakouts. If you've stopped breastfeeding and are experiencing stress, a stress-related hormone called CRH, or corticotrophin-releasing hormone, may "bind to receptors in the skin’s sebaceous glands, and that binding drives up the skin’s oil production — which can cause pimples," according to Dr. Adam Friedman, an associate professor of dermatology at George Washington University. He goes on to add, telling Time, that acne is essentially inflammation that's ignited by the body's response to stress. By finding ways to reduce stress — exercising, taking care of your nutrition, getting enough sleep, and staying hydrated — especially after you stop breastfeeding, you'll help combat the reason for consistent breakouts.
The consensus is clear: you can break out if you stop breastfeeding, thanks to the rapid fluctuation of hormones. That's why gradual weaning is recommended if you want to keep your breakouts at bay. Slowly phasing out feedings gives your body the chance to get used to the changes and, as a result, lowers your chances of experiencing severe cystic acne flare-ups. If you do experience persistent acne that doesn't seem to clear after your hormones should've settled back to neutral, you should talk to your physician about alternative treatments or medication.
Check out Romper's new video series, Bearing The Motherload, where disagreeing parents from different sides of an issue sit down with a mediator and talk about how to support (and not judge) each other’s parenting perspectives. New episodes air Mondays on Facebook.