Posted by Claudia Grazioso on March 18, 2011
Nursing mothers have so much to worry about: Latching on, pumps, gas, foremilk, hind milk. And now they’re telling us we have to add sunscreen to the list. Good grief.
When I had my first child, all I knew about sunscreen was I needed to use it to make up for my childhood summers spent pursuing the “St. Tropez” tan. By the time I had my last child, it had become pretty apparent that all sunscreens weren’t created equal. In fact, many are filled with questionable ingredients: Retinyl Palmitates, Pthalates, Parabens, PABA and Oxybenzone to name a few. The reports, inconclusive as always, can be worrisome.
Of these, the three Ps seem to be most concerning, and the easiest to avoid.
Parabens: Be they ethyl, butyl, methyl or propyl, they seem to be bad news. Some studies have shown parabens to be present in both breast tumors and breast milk. Yuck. In other studies, parabens (which mimic estrogen in the body) have been linked to endocrine disruptions. Though some experts point out that exposure to parabens in a product or two is unlikely to cause any harm, the problem is that parabens are in practically all of our cosmetics, lotions and soaps. Why not limit your exposure and your baby’s?
Phthalates: These are chemical plasticizers used in almost all things plastics, including infant toys and plastic containers. Since phthalates are not bonded to the plastic, they leak into the food or liquid held in that container. That’s why a lot of people are ditching the convenience of plastic for the safety of glass and metal food containers. Phthalates are also used in lotions, like sunscreens, to help them absorb into the skin. Great, right? You get the same lustrous topcoat as Rubbermaid. And phthalates, like parabens, also seem to interfere with hormonal activity. Additionally, in some animal studies, phthalates have been linked to kidney, lungs, liver and reproductive problems. Europe banned their use in cosmetics in 2003 and French women still have the best skin in the world. Maybe we can do without them, too.
PABA, or para amino benzoic acid, has been used as a UV filter. It has also been known to dramatically boost estrogenic activity. In fact, it’s being studied as a way to help infertile women conceive. Great for infertile women… maybe not so good for the developing reproductive and endocrine system of your infant.
So what do moms do? Become nocturnal? Invest in Hazmat-style sun suits? No, but do buy a good hat. The whole family can look fab while staying healthy. And play it safe. Look for mineral-based sunscreens that contain zinc oxide and or titanium dioxide instead of chemical sun blocks. And then you can take the “sunscreen worry” off your panic list.