Is it safe to get a sun tan while I’m breastfeeding?

Ask Anne…

Woman With Sunglasses On Tanning Bed In SolariumQuestion : I’m nursing my six month old baby, and we’re traveling to visit my husband’s family in Florida. Every year before we go on vacation I go to the tanning bed for about a month or so to get my “base tan”. Can  get a sun tan while I’m breastfeeding?

Answer: Tanning won’t have any effect on breastfeeding at all, unless you burn your breasts or nipples, so be sure to cover them up. I’m sure you’re aware of the fact that UV rays – including the ones in tanning beds – are bad for your skin and can cause wrinkles and increase the risk of cancer. This probably this isn’t going to stop you if you’ve decided to do it, but I have to remind you anyway, in case you’ve been living in a cave for the past 25 years and don’t know that tanning is bad for you.

The same thing applies to the air brush tanning booths.  Spray on tanning products fall into the same category as the topically applied self-tanners. With all self-tanning products, wash them off your breasts before you nurse your baby, or even better, don’t tan your breasts at all. Unless you live somewhere that has nude beaches, it’s likely that no one but your baby and your partner will ever see them anyway.

If you decided to use self-tanning products, they shouldn’t cause a problem. They are applied topically, and therefore (like most topical drugs) are absorbed through the skin, and don’t enter your bloodstream – or your milk. They are much safer than tanning beds or direct sun exposure, because they don’t cause the skin damage that UV rays cause.

Sometimes tanning salons will recommend that you take Beta Carotene in addition to using tanning booths.  It’s a plant pigment found in carrots, and your body converts it to Vitamin A. Because one of its side effects is causing a yellowish cast to your skin, it’s sometimes recommended as a tanning enhancer. It’s probably safe, but isn’t necessary and really doesn’t change the results that much. If you want to tint your skin an orangish color, then eating lots of carrots would be a much healthier way to go about it.

Anne, IBCLC
Breastfeeding Basics

 

About Anne Smith, IBCLC

As the mother of six wonderful breastfed children, three perfect breastfed grand babies, and an IBCLC (International Board Certified Lactation Consultant) with over twenty-five years experience in lactation counseling, I can offer you professional support, as well as information and advice based on my personal experiences over the years.

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