Can You Have Laser Hair Removal While Breastfeeding?

It’s been four months since the birth of your baby. You’re doing well, and so is he! You’re getting into a rhythm, and life is starting to feel a bit normal. You even have time for some self-care—maybe some visits to the gym, maybe an occasional massage, maybe a shower! And maybe you’re even thinking about laser hair removal.

Good luck. While there isn’t research to suggest that laser hair removal poses any particular risks for a woman or her baby, most laser hair removal centers refuse the procedure to any woman while she is breastfeeding. Those that will do the procedure usually ask for a doctor’s note.

So what are they thinking? What’s the harm of having it done while breastfeeding? Let’s back up and look at the big picture.

How does laser hair removal work?
Laser hair removal works by a process called selective photothermolysis. That means that the laser light is used to heat up and selectively destroy the hair follicles on the skin.

Certainly, the light spectrum can be absorbed by the hair follicles and the skin. That might be uncomfortable for you—it’s a similar effect to a sunburn—but it doesn’t pose a risk to your baby. (And no one would ask you to get a doctor’s note before your trip to the beach, in spite of your exposure to light!)

Is breastfeeding a contraindication of laser therapy?
There are some contraindications to breastfeeding. Certain antibiotics and other drugs can increase skin sensitivity to sunlight and laser light, hyperpigmentation (including suntan), hypopigmentation, and possibly other skin-related issues. (For example, having a suntan may increase the risk of blistering and pigment change.) But I’ve looked at several leading expert sources, and breastfeeding is never mentioned as a contraindication.

Are there any studies about laser hair removal and breastfeeding?
No, there are no studies about laser hair removal and breastfeeding infants. Why would there be? There are no studies on the effects of a mother’s trip to a sunny beach on her breastfeeding infant, or—to think of another close-encounter of the mother’s skin with light—on blowing out the candles on a birthday cake! Yet two experiences/events are just as likely to cause harm to the breastfeeding baby as the laser treatment!

So what’s the hype?
Hyperpigmentation–During the childbearing cycle, hormones are more likely to cause hyperpigmentation of the skin (melasma). Hyperpigmentation may be an undesired effect in itself, but it also may cause some otherwise-invisible scarring to show.

Hair regrowth–It’s also possible that the hormones may cause the removed hair to grow back more quickly. It may be that it’s not worth your while until you’re done breastfeeding.

Anesthetic–The other concern I’ve heard has to do with the topical anesthetic that is used in conjunction with laser therapy. There’s a chance that it may cause an allergic reaction for you, or for your baby.

The bottom line: There are no studies showing a risk of having laser hair removal while breastfeeding. The hype is more about the possible risks, or the waste of time and money. Want to get this done, anyway? Talk with your doctor.
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Good, Better, Best—Your Baby Needs Your Colostrum

Listen to the podcast, “What No One Ever Told You About Your Colostrum”

Bigger, Shinier … But Not Better
We Americans have learned to think that bigger is better. Bigger cars. Bigger houses. Bigger servings of food. (Have you ever been in a fast-food restaurant where the smallest size drink was a medium?)

We think that technology and automatic-everything is better than the old-fashioned way. (Remember the days when you used a rotary dial for the phone? How about a hand-operated can opener?)

We have it in our heads that certain things should look or perform in a certain way. (Admit it; if the waiter brings you a bloody-looking steak after you order it medium-well, you’ll send it back, right?)

We often assume that once something is good or acceptable or popular, it will get better and better thereafter. (How many ads do we see for a “new and improved” laundry soap or shampoo?)

In essence, we have developed expectations or values about things in our everyday life. But sometimes, we need to sit back and ponder a little. Such is the case with colostrum.

Bigger isn’t always better.
Maybe you think you won’t have “any” milk or “enough milk” during the colostral phase, but is a big volume really what you want? If your baby had to cope with a greater volume of colostrum, he’d have a tougher time learning to coordinate the suck-swallow-breathe sequence—an entirely new skill for him to master!

We might wish that a greater volume would help him to gain weight. But it doesn’t work that way. Colostrum isn’t a body-builder! It’s more like a painter! It paints and seals the gut to protect it against harmful, invasive germs.

Technology isn’t always better.
If you are pumping your colostrum, it’s entirely possible that half or more of your “dose” ends up on the flange of the pump. And when using a pump, the colostrum is usually collected into a bottle, so you are likely to lose a milliliter or so there, too. Bottles with artificial nipples are clearly the default in our culture, but maybe you’ve already discovered how inefficient this method is during the colostral phase! A better idea, as Mary Foley RN IBCLC explains, is to use a spoon to collect the colostrum, and to feed it directly to the baby. That’s a great way to use every drop! And, of course, the very best way to get colostrum to the baby involves no technology at all—just offering the breast—and that has virtually no waste!

Things don’t always look as we might expect them to.
We expect that the observable characteristics of something are what we’ve seen before, or what someone has told we will see. Colostrum is a bit of a nonconformist. True, most times, colostrum is an orange-yellow or an orange-gold, due to the betacarotene. However, colostrum can be white or clear or blood-tinged or any other color you can think of, as I described in today’s show {LINK}, or last week’s show {LINK}. Color isn’t that big of a deal.

Not everything is new, or improved.
Finally, volume doesn’t always increase each time you express your milk. Sometimes you get a little, and next time, you might get nothing! If you express 7 ml during the colostral phase, that’s a lot! Mothers make as little as 10 ml and a much as 100 ml of colostrum in a 24-hour period. The average is about 30 ml in a 24-hour period, about 4 ml every 3 hours. That’s less than a teaspoon.

Colostrum is a literally life-giving, life-sustaining substance. It protects your baby against all sorts of health problems, especially infections. Colostrum is a low-volume, high-nutrient substance that literally sticks to the baby’s gut that is a more miraculously powerful first “immunization” than we could ever manufacture in the lab! Be sure your baby gets it, and be sure to hear tips from Marie and her guest, Mary Foley, for getting every last drop!
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