I started seeing them dotting my Instagram feed not long after giving birth to my first son: An It Works! belly wrap here, a belly wrap there. Feminist me rolled my eyes. Another company getting rich off the culturally-bred insecurities of women? Let's put this energy into finding a cure for cancer, people. That being said, at my lowest moments, I flirted with the idea of a magical product that would give me my body back in 45 minutes. But I was still nursing my sweet baby, and I wondered, "Are It Works wraps safe to use while breastfeeding?" I won't lie — at a few months postpartum, my belly was definitely looking different than it ever had before, and some days I struggled to accept it. I couldn't pretend like I didn't understand why my friends were hopeful about the It Works! wraps either.
Contrary to what should be obvious logic, the answer to my question about breastfeeding while using them wasn't available on the It Works! website's product page. I never ended up trying the wrap, focusing instead on the amazing work of creation my tummy had accomplished and surrounding myself with body-positive people. But as the years have gone by and I see more and more young moms promoting the It Works! wraps while breastfeeding, the question has come back to mind. Ladies, is this even safe?
Certified Lactation Counselor Danielle Downs Spradlin, of Oasis Lactation Services says maybe, but maybe not. In an interview with Romper, Spradlin lays out four points with which to evaluate a product for use when breastfeeding. They are: possible absorption into the blood stream, potential to pass from blood stream to milk, whether the baby can absorb it by drinking the milk, and potential harm from consumption by drinking.
Spradlin says that most lotions don't absorb from the skin into the blood stream, as our skin is an effective barrier. But to know for sure, there must be adequate testing, which Spradlin explains, is a problem. "To know if something absorbs through the skin and into the blood stream, we have to look at each ingredient individually and in combination," she says. "Body wraps have a lot of ingredients, so they're difficult to study."
But there's good news, according to Spradlin. "It's unlikely that anything in an over the counter weight loss or skin care product will have much interaction with the blood stream. These products are poorly regulated, so it's unknown if they actually contain the ingredients in the concentrations claimed by the manufacturer."
But what about the possible effects of your body's detox on a breastfeeding babe? Will he ingest all the toxins you're so happy to be rid of?
Thankfully, Spradlin says, that's not how it works. "The mammary glands are not part of the body's detox system. The lymphatic system, urinary system, and digestive system work together to rid the body of waste. If a nursing mom believes she has a toxin sequestered somewhere in her body, this is something for a physician to assess. We have good evidence that women exposed to toxins such as lead (thank you families in Michigan for helping us learn the hard way) should continue breastfeeding. More toxins cross the placenta than are passed by the breast milk."
According to Spradlin, the odds are It Works! wraps are probably safe to use while breastfeeding, though there's no way to be 100 percent sure. But other issues, such as substantiation of the product's claims, the integrity of Multi-Level Marketing companies, and profiting off the unbearable social expectations of women, still abound. All I can say is if you want to give it a try, proceed with caution.
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