Is Lanolin Safe for Babies?

How to use it, where to buy it, and safety tips

lanolin breastfeeding

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Breastfeeding discomfort is a significant problem for many women, especially nipple pain. Many women cite nipple pain as the main reason they stop breastfeeding. If you are dealing with nipple pain or cracked or bleeding nipples, you may be wondering what products you can use to help make nursing more comfortable.

Lanolin cream is a nipple cream often used to help cope with this breastfeeding problem. Read on to find out if lanolin is safe for mothers and babies while breastfeeding, how to use it to reduce pain while breastfeeding, and when it's time to see a professional.

What Is Lanolin Cream?

Lanolin is a mixture of alcohol esters and fatty acids derived from sheep's wool. It's used in many different kinds of cosmetic and pharmaceutical ointments, such as soap and lubricants. It looks like thick yellowish-white cream or paste.

If you've felt a sheep's wool, you may have felt the greasy feeling of lanolin near the root of the wool, which helps condition the wool and keep it soft and moisturized.

Safety

Lanolin cream is safe to use on intact skin while breastfeeding and is non-toxic for both mother and baby. You do not have to wipe it off or remove it before your baby breastfeeds.

According to the U.S. National Library of Medicine, the most common side effect that is associated with the use of lanolin cream is an allergic reaction or skin irritation. While still relatively rare, allergy to lanolin and lanolin products has increased slightly to affect about 1.81% of the population.

Lanolin products should be avoided in people with a known allergy to wool.

If you experience any increased skin irritation or pain, skin cracking, or bleeding after using lanolin cream, or your baby's mouth develops any sores or redness, you should discontinue using it. Though lanolin is generally considered safe, you or your baby may be sensitive to the cream. If your nipple pain persists, see a lactation consultant or breastfeeding specialist. 

How to Use

You can apply lanolin cream or paste directly onto your nipples or any affected areas on your areola anytime you are experiencing nipple pain, or as a preventive measure. You can safely apply the cream to cracked and bleeding areas, but any open areas may need additional time to heal.

Because you don't have to wipe it off before feeding, you can apply the cream before you nurse, leave it on during your baby's breastfeeding session, and apply it after nursing as well. If you use lanolin before breastfeeding, however, apply it 10 to 15 minutes before your baby is going to nurse to give it time to absorb into your skin.

Lanolin cream is greasy, so it does have the potential to stain your clothing or any blankets if it comes into contact with fabric, so take precautions to avoid stains during use.

If it does stain your clothing or blankets, you can use a grease-fighting soap to soak and wash the fabric to remove the stain. You should store your lanolin cream in a cool, dry place. If it is exposed to warmer temperatures, the cream may liquefy. The cream can still be used, but you might want to allow it to turn back into a solid at cooler temperatures.

You can also lubricate your breast pump parts with a small amount of lanolin. Doing so will help the pumping be more comfortable and will allow the pump to draw in more of the breast.

Where to Buy

Lanolin is available over-the-counter and many times it is provided by hospitals for new mothers before they go home with their baby. Your doctor may also give you a prescription for it. There are popular name-brand versions of lanolin cream as well as generic products you can purchase.

There are different types of lanolin processing, so you will want to look for a lanolin cream that is pure and preservative-free so that it is as safe as possible for your infant.

A Word From Verywell

Breastfeeding-related nipple pain is a concern for many women and in some cases, may cause them to stop breastfeeding altogether. There are solutions you can try to ease the pain of nursing, including using baby-safe products like lanolin cream.

If your discomfort with breastfeeding continues, or your nipple pain gets worse or develops into bleeding nipples, consult with a professional like a lactation consultant. In some cases, it may be helpful to get advice about adjusting your baby's latch or position during nursing.

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  1. Fransen M, Overgaard LEK, Johansen JD, Thyssen JP. Contact allergy to lanolin: Temporal changes in prevalence and association with atopic dermatitis. Contact Derm. 2018;78(1):70-75. doi:10.1111/cod.12872

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