There's no arguing that sunscreen is a valuable tool in protecting yourself from sunburns and reducing your risk of skin cancer. But, since everything you put in or on your body has the potential to affect your breast milk, is sunscreen safe to wear while breastfeeding? Don't worry, you can still enjoy sunny days while keeping yourself and your baby healthy.
The American Cancer Society continuously advocates for the use of sunscreen because there is a direct link between harmful UV rays and skin cancer. In an email to Romper, Dyan Hes, M.D., a pediatrician in New York City, agrees with this recommendation and suggests that everyone, including breastfeeding women, should "use sunscreen liberally." However, she explains, the use of sunscreen limits your "absorption of Vitamin D, which is already not as bioavailable in breast milk." Thankfully, this can be easily remedied. She recommends that "all breastfed babies are supplemented with 400 units of Vitamin D (oral drops) per day" to combat this.
While the reward of wearing sunscreen is evident, that doesn't mean it is totally without risks. Pediatrician Whitney Casares, M.D., M.P.H., tells Romper, the medical community is "still learning about the chemicals in sunscreen and their safety levels in pregnant and breastfeeding women," but she also explains that at this time, "there is no direct link between sunscreen use and breast milk production."
If the unknowns still make you uneasy, there are some extra precautions you can take to further minimize risk. Casares recommends women "avoid applying sunscreen in places on the body that might come in direct contact with your baby's mouth..[or] with breast pump parts." Also, once it's time to feed or pump, wash your hands and your breast to ensure there's no lingering lotion that could get passed to baby. Another option is to limit your need for sunscreen. "When possible, opt for cool, breathable long-sleeve clothing, wear a sun hat, and try to stay in the shade," says Casares.
The risks, if any, to your baby/breast milk are minimal, whereas the benefits of wearing sunscreen can't be overstated. With workarounds to help manage the unknowns, there is no reason to stay cooped up inside or risk overexposure outside in an effort to avoid sunscreen.
Whitney Casares, M.D., M.P.H., pediatrician, author of The New Baby Blueprint: Caring for You and Your Little One, and founder of www.modernmommydoc.com
Dyan Hes, M.D., pediatrician and medical director of Gramercy Pediatrics in New York City