If you’re used to laser hair removal and paused hair removal sessions during pregnancy, maybe now you wonder if it’s okay to continue while breastfeeding. When it comes to laser hair removal and lactation, there’s good news.
Although there is a lack of research on laser hair removal and breastfeeding, we do know how humans make breast milk. So, we also can draw conclusions about what sorts of things might get into or affect breast milk.
Generally speaking, we don’t expect laser hair removal treatments to affect breast milk quality or breast milk production.
Most would consider a breastfeeding parent having laser hair removal procedures to be a low risk to the baby.
Today’s post goes into more detail about laser hair removal and why it’s unlikely to affect breast milk. I’ll also review some general information on safer pain control during laser hair removal of breastfeeding parents.
Why Lasers Probably Don’t Affect Breast Milk
I have to start by saying that I’m not aware of clinical studies directly studying lactation and laser procedures. That’s why I use the word “probably.”
However, an absence of research shouldn’t stop us from thinking things through.
Let’s remember that for something to get into breast milk, it has to be absorbed into the bloodstream first. Breast milk ultimately is made through a process that starts with blood. As an example, certain medications or ingredients do get absorbed into the blood and some may end up in the breast milk. (See this about coffee and breastfeeding).
When it comes to laser hair removal, there are different types of lasers that penetrate the hair and skin pigment at slightly different levels.
Laser hair removal works by targeting hair follicles. Hair follicles are the spots in the skin from which hair grows. In laser hair removal, the laser sends out a light. It gets absorbed by the pigment in the hair and the hair follicles are injured by the heat. This is the goal. If the hair follicles are damaged, then the hair won’t grow back as well. New hairs may be more fine or take longer to regrow.
(People who choose laser hair removal may do so to limit excess hair growth in unwanted areas).
But the light from the laser does not exactly enter the blood stream. So, it makes sense that it shouldn’t affect breast milk.
In other words, there is no need to pump and dump after laser hair removal.
Let’s back up and think about other exposures relating to breastfeeding. Most parents wouldn’t worry about breast milk after too much sun exposure. And, we know that mammograms (xrays) also do not affect breast milk. Many would also find selective photothermolysis (originally used for hair removal) and other laser skin treatments to be okay with breastfeeding.
There’s also no evidence that laser hair removal treatments affect milk production, meaning they shouldn’t make someone produce less milk than normal.
Is it worthwhile to get laser hair removal while breastfeeding?
Whether laser hair removal during lactation is as effective is another topic! There’s a lot that changes right around and just after pregnancy. Pregnancy hormones and the hormonal changes after delivery can affect many things including skin pigmentation and hair growth.
So, even though breast milk itself is okay for babies to drink after their parent has had laser hair removal, parents may choose to delay a laser treatment for other reasons. For the best results, it’s ideal to discuss with the medical professionals who will actually be performing the procedure.
This is not a comment on pregnancy or the effects of laser hair removal (or other hair removal methods) on an unborn baby. I’m not an obstetrician. As a pediatrician, I want to support parents in feeding their babies. I would not want them to stop feeding (or pump and dump) due to incorrect information.
(This is also not a comment on other cosmetic procedures).
And, maybe it goes without saying, but whether it is shaving or depilatory creams, there are many ways to remove unwanted hair growth. Laser therapy is just one way! So, parents can discuss the best option with their healthcare team.
Is pain relief safe during laser hair removal in a breastfeeding parent?
Okay, so the hair removal itself is probably fine for someone lactating. Are there side effects that could affect a baby? Pain is one of the more common side effects, so what about the pain control?
Many people undergo laser hair removal without any specific pain management, saying that the mild pain is tolerable. Others prefer to use numbing creams or topical anesthetics at the treated area.
Lidocaine is one common active ingredient in numbing creams used for laser hair removal. When lidocaine is given through an IV or injected as part of local pain relief in breastfeeding parents, it isn’t expected to cause any issues with their breastfed babies.
That being said, it’s probably reasonable not to place the topical cream in an area where the baby may put their mouth (like on the breasts) to avoid direct accidental ingestion. Otherwise, the medication is considered low risk with breastfeeding.
As a reminder and for some context, lidocaine is sometimes used as a local anesthetic in postpartum women (without additional breastfeeding concerns due to the lidocaine).
Please note that the numbing creams may contain additional ingredients. So, if there is any concern, it’s best to ask about those specific ingredients.
Another safe option would be to opt out of the topical pain control or choose something non-medicated, like an ice pack.
Summary: Laser hair removal treatments in a breastfeeding parent probably pose little risk to the breastfed baby.
Although the risk of laser hair removal treatments is low, a side of caution would be wise when choosing pain control. And, the treatments during the postpartum period may or may not be as effective as expected (it just depends on each person’s situation, hair growth cycle, hormone levels, skin type, etc).
There’s simply not enough research on many procedures and lactation or breastfeeding, but common sense can guide us. Of course there may be unknown effects of laser treatment on breast milk. Based on what we know now, negative effects are unlikely.
So, discussing all of the above with the medical specialists involved in your care is not only a good idea, it’s the best approach.
This is for information only. It is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition. Never disregard professional medical advice or delay in seeking it because of something you have read on this website. Please see the complete disclaimer.
Maya M. Mahmood, D.O., FAAP is a board-certified pediatrician and mom. She is passionate about parents having evidence-based information to help their families be healthier. Subscribe to the newsletter for regular updates.