Use of Retin-A

Q. “I’m breastfeeding. Is it OK to use topical products containing Retin-A?”

A. Great question because we all know that when taken orally these strong medications for acne and wrinkles are potentially transferred into breast milk and should be rarely be used when breastfeeding.  But, like virtually every othertopical cream or lotion, the cream’s transfer into breast milk is zero or almost zero and it can be used while nursing.  To repeat, oral Retin-A products should be avoided while nursing but topical Retin-A products are safe.  Just to remind you, the best website for this type of issue is Dr. Thomas Hale’s site or his book “Medications and Mothers’ Milk.”

The overall important concept here is that there are very few routine medications which are not safe while breastfeeding.  Most manufacturers (and even doctors) think they’re “erring on the side of caution” when the tell moms to stop nursing because of a need for a pain killer, an antibiotic or an antidepressant.  They are wrong!  The known medical problems from lack of breast milk far outweigh the side effects of virtually any medication.

Another way to look at this issue:  Not, “Is it safe to breastfeed while I take this medicine?” but instead, “I’m breastfeeding, so I have to have a medication compatible with continuing nursing.”