Medication used on skin

What products are safe on my skin while breastfeeding?

Most skin medications are compatible (poses little or no risk to the baby) with breastfeeding. Their ingredients show up only in small amounts in breast milk. However, some products that are used on the nipple and areola may be taken in by a breastfeeding baby and need extra scrutiny. For specific information, consult your health-care providers and other resources. Iodine-based antibacterial products used by mothers for skin and vaginal infections can affect a baby’s thyroid function. Most antifungal products are OK to use, although ketoconazole can affect a baby’s liver and should not be used on skin where the baby may eat it. Lindane, used to treat lice, should not be used by breastfeeding mothers, but most insect repellants, including DEET, are compatible with breastfeeding.

A) Describing using skin preparations while breastfeeding

In general, most items found in skin medications are present only in very low amounts in breast milk and are compatible (poses very little or no risk to the baby) with breastfeeding (Anderson 2018). For information on a particular product, consult your health-care providers and consider using additional resources.

B) Agents used on the nipple and areola in breastfeeding mothers

Agents such as steroids, gentian violet, and others that are used on the nipple and areola can be taken in by a baby while breastfeeding and need extra scrutiny.

C) Antibacterials

Most antibacterial agents found in first-aid ointments that are used on the skin for infection are not well absorbed by babies when present in their mothers’ milk.

Iodine-containing products are used to treat and prevent skin and vaginal infections. Iodine can enter the mother's body and breast milk and reduce the baby’s thyroid function. Their use should be avoided or minimized by:

  • Not using them on wounds and the vagina as these areas allow easier entry of iodine into the mother’s body.
  • Washing them off as soon as possible.
  • Not using them repeatedly.
  • Using them in the smallest areas possible.

D) Antifungals

Most antifungals are compatible with breastfeeding. Ketoconazole can affect the baby’s liver and should not be used on skin where the baby may eat it.

E) Insecticides

Pyrethrins and permethrin are used for head lice. They are not in the mother’s system for very long and are compatible with breastfeeding.

Lindane, which is also used for lice, should not be used by breastfeeding mothers. It is potentially toxic in infants, is a persistent environmental contaminant, and possibly has estrogenic effects that could decrease the amount of breast milk as well as affect the baby.

Most insect repellants, including DEET, are compatible with breastfeeding.

References

Anderson P. Topical Drugs in Nursing Mothers. Breastfeeding Medicine 2018; 13(1): 5