Can I continue to breastfeed if…? Various chemical exposures

By Kelly Bonyata, IBCLC

Nursing mothers have many questions about the safety of various things during lactation. Following are some of the questions regarding chemical exposure we’ve answered over the past few years.

see also Beauty/Recreation questions & Health/Medical Issues

Cleaning Products (and other volatiles/solvents)

Things that are used on the skin or inhaled are rarely absorbed into the maternal bloodstream in significant enough amounts to reach the milk. For something like this to pass into the milk enough to affect baby, mom’s exposure would probably need to be to such an extent that she becomes very ill.

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Anytime you’re using something with lots of fumes, it’s always a good idea to use lots of ventilation (open a door/window, use a fan) and minimize any skin contact (wear gloves, etc).

Environmental contaminants

See Breastfeeding and environmental contaminants.


Gasoline Fumes (when pumping gas, etc)

Things that come into contact with the skin or are inhaled are rarely absorbed into the maternal bloodstream in significant enough amounts to reach the milk. Airborne pollutants probably have a far greater negative effect on babies who don’t have the protection of mom’s milk.

Paint & Paint Fumes

This should not be a problem, but it is recommended that you minimize your exposure to the paint and paint fumes. Use lots of ventilation (particularly if you are inside) and wear gloves to minimize skin contact. If you can find it, use a low-odor paint (they have fewer volatiles).

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