Breastfeeding and Skin Conditions

Tips for Dealing With Eczema, Psoriasis, and Dermatitis

Bare Chest, Hand over breast.
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Eczema, psoriasis, and dermatitis are skin conditions that can develop in many areas of the body including the breast, areola, and nipple. They can show up as dry, red, raised rashes or flaky, scaly patches on the skin that may itch, burn, crack, bleed or ooze. If you're a nursing mom and these conditions appear on your breasts, it can interfere with breastfeeding. Here's what you need to know about dealing with skin conditions of the breast.

Tips for Breastfeeding with a Skin Condition of the Breast

A rash or any other type of skin irritation on your breast, areola, or nipple can make it painful to nurse to your child. However, you don't have to stop breastfeeding. Here's what to do if a skin condition develops.

  • Continue to breastfeed your child to maintain your supply of breast milk and prevent other issues such as breast engorgement, plugged milk ducts, and mastitis.
  • A common cause of breast irritation that can lead to outbreaks of these types of skin conditions is an incorrect breastfeeding latch. By correcting a poor latch, you can help to prevent further damage to your skin. If you need help with your baby's position and latch, contact your doctor, a lactation consultant or your local breastfeeding group for assistance.
  • Do not wear tight-fitting bras or clothing that can put pressure on your breasts and irritate your skin.
  • Moisture trapped on your skin can make the irritation worse. So, soak up leaks by using absorbent breast pads made from natural materials, and avoid those with plastic linings. Also, be sure to change your breast pads when they get wet.
  • If it is too painful to breastfeed from one of your breasts, continue to nurse from the other side. Pump or hand express your milk from the painful side while it's healing. 
  • If both breasts need time to heal you may need to temporarily wean your child. If you are not putting your baby to the breast, use a breast pump frequently to maintain your milk supply and prevent some of the common problems of breastfeeding. You can also use an alternative feeding method to feed your child until you can return to breastfeeding.

Tips for Treatment of a Skin Condition of the Breast

A skin condition of the breast can affect breastfeeding. But, proper treatment can bring about pain relief and healing of itchy, scaly, irritated skin. Here's how to treat a skin condition of the breast when you're breastfeeding. 

  • See your doctor or a dermatologist for a true diagnosis, treatment instructions, and pain relief.
  • Dermatitis and eczema are sometimes caused by an allergy or irritation. If you can determine the cause, try to eliminate it. Once you remove the irritant, your skin can begin to heal more quickly.
  • Wearing breast shells inside your bra may be helpful. Breast shells can prevent your clothing from rubbing against your skin.
  • Warm water compresses or hydrogel breast pads can soothe your breasts if they become irritated.
  • You can try rubbing some freshly expressed breast milk onto the area. Breast milk can help to moisturize your skin and promote healing.
  • UVB light treatments may be helpful, and they are considered safe for breastfeeding women.
  • Many treatment plans for skin conditions include the use of topical steroid ointments or creams that you need to apply directly to the affected area. You'll want to apply these medications immediately after breastfeeding and gently wash your breasts well before nursing again.
  • Certain options for the treatment of psoriasis including methotrexate, cyclosporine, PUVA and biologic medications are not safe to use while breastfeeding. Make sure your doctor knows that you are breastfeeding before he prescribes any treatments.

When to Call the Doctor

If you do not begin to see improvement of your condition after you start treatment, call the doctor. There are other conditions such as thrush or other forms of dermatitis may look similar to eczema or psoriasis but require different treatment. And, although uncommon, a kind of cancer called Paget's disease of the breast can be misdiagnosed as eczema or dermatitis. 

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