Today's Tip: Tanning and Breastfeeding

By LLLC Blog, 9 May, 2014

As winter drags itself into a chilly spring across most of the country many people have started thinking about sun tanning and perhaps speeding up the process with spray tanning.

Sun tanning or tanning under ultraviolet lights:

Sun tanning outdoors is completely compatible with breastfeeding and will not alter breastmilk in any way. If you are sun tanning outside keep baby out of the sun because an infant’s skin is much more vulnerable to burning than adult skin. Sometimes clients at tanning studios are given Carotene to enhance the tanning – this should be avoided while breastfeeding. Most important, no matter which way you are tanning, is to be sure to protect your nipples. For your own comfort while nursing you do not want to risk getting a burn. Keep in mind that ultraviolet exposure of any kind ages skin prematurely and increases the risk of cancer.

Spray tanning/self-tanning products:

The most common ingredient in commercial spray tans (also called UV-free tanning, airbrush tanning, and spray on tanning) is dihydroxyacetone. ToxNet, states that dihydroxyacetone is not FDA approved for internal use. A baby could be exposed orally if the product is used on the breasts. There are studies that suggest there could be effects on muscles and cells from spray tanning products. These are results of laboratory studies as obviously these possibilities can’t be tested on babies. There is no clear answer on how much, if any, of these types of products is absorbed though the skin and into the blood stream and ultimately into the breastmilk when they are applied without exposing the breasts.

The dihydroxyacetone is considered highly soluble in water so over-spray that gets on to the breast can be washed off with soap and warm water. The length of time the product had been on the skin prior to washing, the dryness of the skin at time of application and the amount of product used would all be factors in determining whether all of the product could be fully removed by washing. There are no guarantees that washing will remove all traces of a spray tanning product.

If you think your baby has been exposed to a spray tanning product through breastfeeding contact your local poison control center for advice.

**Note: If you have a breastfeeding question, please click here.