Can Breastfeeding Cause Dry Skin?

After giving birth and while breastfeeding you are going to experience a number of hormone changes and shifts, and these can greatly affect your body. One common problem that women may experience after giving birth is dry skin. It’s easy to look at breastfeeding as the culprit for this problem, but there may be an underlying medical problem that needs to be addressed.

Dry Skin Around the Nipple

Dry skin around the nipple is easily attributed to breastfeeding, as it is normal for nipples to become sore, and dry out due to all the action. In fact, the skin can dry out so much that it starts to develop deep cracks, and bleeds. Letting dry skin get out of control on your nipples during breastfeeding is asking to get an infection (such as thrush or mastitis) so you’ll want to get ahead of it.

Using ointments with plenty of lanolin, allowing any residual breast milk to dry on the nipples, and skipping out on synthetic materials in your bras and shirts can help with this problem. I also found that using “soothies” or other gel nipple covers did wonders for keeping my nipples healthy and happy.

can breastfeeding cause dry skin
I could buy stock in Soothies Gel Pads, I give them as gifts to all pregnant women at every baby shower I attend.

While dry skin on the nipples is painful, it’s generally something that will pass quickly.

Dry Skin Elsewhere Post-Pregnancy

It is common for your skin to be less elastic and more dry after pregnancy, regardless of whether you are breastfeeding or not. When you are pregnant (gaining what might be a lot of weight and making room in your belly for the baby), the skin stretches quite dramatically.

Many women find that their skin does not return to its previous elasticity or moisture after the baby arrives, and it is flaky, itchy, rashy, and more wrinkly than before, even in areas away from the midsection.

(I can attest to this, after I weaned my last child, the skin on my arms is suddenly wrinkly, and much drier than it ever was before, and I find myself looking at it curiously, because it doesn’t seem like it should belong to me. It reminds me of my grandma’s skin and I am wondering how I got so old so fast!)

They may also find that they struggle with acne, perhaps for the first time in their lives.

(I was one of these, and even though it has been more than a year since I weaned my last child, my skin has not returned to a stable and good looking state, I am starting to wonder if it ever will).

Breastfeeding is generally not the cause of the dry skin issues post-pregnancy, though you might wonder if it is because the pregnancy is over and breastfeeding continues.

Can you tighten loose skin after pregnancy?

Honestly, the answer to this question is that you can only somewhat tighten your skin back up. A lot of what helps skin tighten up again are things that women don’t have a lot of control over. I think that if you are younger, your skin is just naturally a bit more elastic than if you are pregnant as an older woman. I think genes also play a part in this. Some women seem to be able to bounce back to their pre-baby bodies without much effort, while others never get there.

If you find that you are one of those whose skin isn’t tightening up, you can try out a lot of the recommendations to help your body, such as:

  • eating high quality and healthy foods to improve your overall skin health and elasticity
  • try to lose your post-baby weight slow and steady, rather than all at once
  • use coca butter or other creams/products to help hydrate the skin
  • use skin firmers (I’ve never used these, so I can’t say whether they are effective)
  • drink lots and lots of water
  • get active, and fill out some of that lose skin with muscle (such as in the arms)

However, no matter what you do, as you get older, your skin is just going to be less elastic. You may find that the only way to truly tighten up your loose skin is through plastic surgery or some other procedure to get rid of loose skin. This is not something I have done, nor do I intend to do it. I just don’t care that much about how good my belly looks (or doesn’t look) to risk my life for elective surgery.

Other potential causes of dry skin while breastfeeding

Does the dry skin situation post-pregnancy seem rather dramatic? In this case there is likely another problem going on that is affecting the whole body. It is very common for the thyroid to have some problems after giving birth, and dry skin on the body is a clear sign of a thyroid issue. The best way to deal with this is to get help from a medical professional who can offer you assistance and treatment.

Focus on natural ways to combat dry skin while breastfeeding

When you are breastfeeding, you don’t want to overdo or overuse lotions, scrubs, or other cosmetics that contain chemicals which can get into the milk and into your baby. It is important to avoid parabens, chemical fragrances, and other substances that you can’t pronounce because of the number of z’s and x’s.

Instead, explore natural alternatives to your favorite products (which you can return to after you wean your baby). For example, I recently discovered that you can help hydrate your skin by taking a “milk bath” made up with nonfat dry milk and essential oils (who knew you could do all those things with nonfat dry milk including painting your house).

costco diaper

You can also use cocoa butter (on your skin and on baby too), which I have found to be a really effective alternative to my old lotions.

For more info about breastfeeding, check out our Breastfeeding FAQs post: 100 Breastfeeding Tips For New Moms.

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