Is Lanolin safe for breastfeeding or not? Top Myth about Lanolin busted
There are rising numbers of bloggers and marketing agents cautioning you against this ingredient called ‘lanolin’. Unfortunately, this hysteria is affecting the huge number of nursing mothers using lanolin to soothe their cracked / sore nipples. Thus, the use of lanolin in lip balm, hair oil, and other cosmetics are being questioned.
So is lanolin safe for the baby and mother? Are there harmful side-effects and other health issues associated with using lanolin? Is there something we should be worried about using lanolin?
Why is lanolin used by nursing mothers?
You may know that lanolin is an ingredient produced from the sheep’s wool. If you have ever touched a sheep’s wool before you may know that its fur has a slightly waxy surface. This natural wool wax or wool grease is what helps them repel water off their fur and after it is extracted for human use, it is further processed into ‘lanolin’.
Lanolin has been used by humans for around 8000 years. There are records of Egyptians using a blocks of lanolin to moisturize their face and skin. More recently, lanolin was used in the 19th century for eczema and dermatitis.
Similarly, lanolin has been used for painful and dry nipples on a widespread scale, but this development is more of a recent phenomenon compared to using lanolin as a moisturizer in creams, oil, and cosmetics.
How safe is lanolin?
It seems to be reasonable to worry about using lanolin, because it not only concerns your wellbeing but also the safety of your baby. The pregnancy category for lanolin is mentioned as ‘N’, i.e. ‘not classified’ may foster those concerns further.
Does lanolin have pesticide? Is it toxic if ingested? Does it cause cancer? Does it have side effects?
These are legitimate questions to ask. When people use scare tactics to try and loosely connect a ‘yes’ to every one of those above-mentioned questions, it is somewhat deceiving.
Does Lanolin contain pesticide? Yes, they do. Like any domesticated animal - like your dog or cat - sheep too are have to be treated for fleas, lice, mites, and ticks with insecticide or pesticides. In perspective though, the levels of insecticide or pesticide found in lanolin are minuscule compared to the everyday vegetables we eat every day.
Even then highly purified modified lanolin (where the pesticide and detergent residues are removed), natural free alcohol is reduced to below 3% to improve the safety and decrease the allergic potential. It must be noted that only those patients with a known allergy to wool must avoid lanolin and its derivatives.
So is pure lanolin safe for breastfeeding? A study comparing highly purified lanolin, i.e. Lansinoh to expressed breast-milk in 180 mothers found lanolin to be “superior to breastmilk over a 7-day period in reducing pain and the nipple trauma score”.
You may ask does lanolin cause cancer. The answer is “Lanolin is not carcinogenic”. In fact, lanolin might have “apparent anti-carcinogenic action” as suggested in a study done by Oxford University, published in 1947. More recent studies on the subject, however, are not available.
As far as lanolin’s side effects go, it is generally advised that if you experience hives, difficulty breathing, swelling on the face, lips, tongue, or throat after using lanolin- then to stop using it. This reaction, however, is very rare, on a case to case basis and only applies to those who have an allergy to it.
When you are feeling confident of using lanolin for bruised or sore nipples, make sure to use a dampened cloth to clean before you breastfeed (even if literature says it is unnecessary). Plus, when you buy a lanolin cream or lanolin oil, make sure to confirm where it is manufactured and the reputation of that company, so that you know you are getting pesticide free pure lanolin. There are many well-reputed Lanolin companies like Rolex Lanolin Pvt Ltd. that are certified and have won several accolades for producing quality lanolin.