Breastfeeding and Antiperspirant: Is It Safe?

Worried that your antiperspirant isn't a smart choice when you're breastfeeding? Here's what you need to know.

Antiperspirant and Breastfeeding George Rudy/Shutterstock
Does it feel like you have to carefully contemplate everything—right down to your morning antiperspirant application—now that you're a breastfeeding mom?

You're definitely not alone, says Nancy Hurst, PhD, RN, IBCLC and director of Women's Support Services at Texas Children's Pavilion for Women. "I always tell new mothers that they have passed the first real sign of becoming a mother when they start to feel guilty...for just about everything they do and how it might or might not affect their baby. For the mother who is breastfeeding, this can include what they eat, drink and do."

But if what you're worried about today is your daily dash of antiperspirant, there's no need to sweat it: While you should exercise caution about using beauty products when you're pregnant, experts say that using antiperspirants when you're breastfeeding shouldn't be a concern.

Why? Because there are multiple layers of barrier between your antiperspirant and your baby. As Becky Mannel, BS, IBCLC, FILCA, director of the Oklahoma Breastfeeding Resource Center and clinical instructor at the University of Oklahoma University Heath Sciences Center, explains: "[Using antiperspirant as a nursing mom is] a nonissue, as [it's] applied to the skin, and topical 'meds' in general aren't going to concentrate enough in the mother's bloodstream to be able to even cross into milk, much less have any that the baby absorbs through the breast milk."

What this means is that the aluminum—the ingredient that most of these stories are concerned about—is simply very unlikely to make it in meaningful amounts from your underarm to your baby. As medical site MommyMeds.com notes, one study showed that the aluminum absorbed through milk was less than what we get from our diets.

The site did, however, note that in one study of rabbits, the milk supply was decreased in rabbits exposed to high levels of aluminum. For this reason, then, you may want to avoid high-aluminum content antiperspirant options. (You can check out a listing of antiperspirants by aluminum content level here.)

Now, if after all this you'd still rather just skip aluminum altogether, you do have stop-stink options—thank goodness!—but be aware that they're more likely to be deodorants than antiperspirants. The difference? Antiperspirants use chemicals like aluminum to block the production of sweat, while deodorants minimize the bacteria in sweat that causes the stink, or simply mask the odor. If you're an antiperspirant user, it may take a few tries to find the choice that works best for you.

Some of the options to consider:

1) A mineral deodorant, like Crystal Essence Mineral Essence Mineral Deodorant, which uses mineral salts as a barrier to the bacteria that cause bad smells, and antioxidants to protect your underarm skin from irritation.

2) An essential oil deodorant, like LaVanila The Healthy Deodorant, which uses beta glucan and essential oils to minimize odor.

3) An charcoal deodorant, like Piper Wai, which uses activated charcoal to absorb wetness and essential oils to create a fresh scent.

The number-one thing you can do to protect both yourself and your little ones is to keep your eyes open, and research those health rumors you see in your social feeds. "Luckily there are reliable resources that are available to find the information that you need," Hurst notes, and recommends you check out The National Institute of Health's US National Library of Medicine's LactMed database, which is updated monthly, and outlines the impact on breastfeeding of medicines and other chemicals. Use it, and you'll never need to break into a cold sweat about those stories again.

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