It’s common for pregnant women to experience a range of physical and emotional changes, and this doesn’t just stop after you have the baby. A sauna can provide a stress-relieving environment for new moms, but can you use it while you’re nursing or breastfeeding?
Using a traditional sauna while nursing or breastfeeding is a great way to stimulate lactation, improve sleep quality, reduce stress hormones, and recover from labor. Avoid staying inside for longer than 10 minutes due to the risk of supply evaporation. Consult your doctor first before using a sauna postpartum.
Keep reading to learn if it’s safe to use the sauna while you’re breastfeeding, how heat can impact milk flow, and recommended sauna-bathing practices for moms!
Is it safe to use the sauna while breastfeeding or nursing?
There are plenty of no-nos when you’re pregnant (and, in some cases, if you’re nursing and/or trying to conceive). Is the sauna one of them?
While there is little evidence to support or oppose using a sauna while nursing, it is not recommended while pregnant, as the temperature increase can harm the fetus. Some saunas will specify on their label whether or not to use while breastfeeding. Otherwise, always consult your OBGYN first for their medical opinion.
Some information has circulated around avoiding breastfeeding for at least a day after using infrared saunas. In any case, always err on the side of caution when it comes to you or your baby’s health.
In a 2008 U.S. study that followed new Cambodian mothers and their postpartum practices, researchers found that using a sauna was not harmful to them, their babies, or their breast milk supply.
Can heat damage breastmilk?
Are hot temperatures harmful to breastmilk? Here’s what we know:
One of the main benefits of using a sauna is to detoxify your body. However, most of these pathogens and chemicals are expelled through sweat glands, and – in some cases – into your breast lobes.
When you’re inside of a sauna, heat will build up in your body, causing you to perspire and potentially increase this dump of toxins into your breastmilk.
Because of this, it is recommended to use the same rule of drinking alcohol when sauna bathing. Physicians recommend that you wait at least 2 hours after each standard alcoholic beverage to breastfeed your child.
Use this timeline after a sauna session, and you won’t have to worry about harmful waste in your baby’s food supply!
Can heat reduce milk supply?
You may wonder if the heat of a sauna can reduce your milk supply, but, actually, it is quite the opposite.
The use of a sauna post-delivery can actually increase milk production and lessen the chance for milk stasis. More frequent breastfeeding in the early stages of childhood development is important for proper brain formation.
Heat will stimulate your milk production, while cold therapy will slow it down (hence why using ice packs is the gold standard for reducing hyperlactation).
Traditional saunas while breastfeeding
Now, let’s dive into how each type of sauna can help (or hurt) your breastfeeding efforts.
Traditional saunas have high heat and low moisture, averaging 177°F with around 30% humidity. As we discussed above, heat is a catalyst for milk flow. While this is a good thing, increased levels of heat and humidity can lead to a minor amount of milk evaporation while you’re inside.
In an Australian study performed in 1990, doctors found that for every 1°C rise in ambient temperature, evaporative milk losses increased by 0.008 g/min.
Infrared saunas while breastfeeding
Infrared saunas operate a little differently.
The typical infrared sauna is 140°F, with low humidity. What this means for your breastmilk is that generally speaking, milk levels will rise, but the risk for evaporation is much lower due to less moisture in the air.
However, pay attention to the warning disclosure that applies to the particular sauna you are using because there is little data regarding infrared saunas and their impact on new moms and their breastmilk supply.
Steam rooms while breastfeeding
Finally, steam rooms can be a little tricky.
Because the temperature of a steam sauna is 112°F, and humidity is elevated beyond 100%, this could cause some serious milk evaporation.
If you want to give it a shot, make sure not to stay beyond 10 minutes, and pump or feed as soon as you get home.
Potential benefits of using the sauna postpartum
Now that we’ve talked about the risks, what about the benefits of using the sauna postpartum?
Here are the biggest potential benefits of using the sauna after having a baby:
- Relaxation and lowered cortisol levels
- Recovery from pregnancy and labor
- Increased lactation
- Improved quality of sleep
- Help with stretch-mark product absorption
Relation and lowered cortisol levels
A sauna is a wonderful way for new moms to increase relaxation and lower stress levels.
It’s important for women to de-stress after giving birth, as their hormones are still fluctuating. Sauna bathing is a natural and easy way to relax and slow down. Additionally, it has been shown to reduce cortisol levels by 25%.
This is crucial for breastfeeding mothers as excessive hormones in their bodies will be transmitted through milk to their babies.
Recovery from pregnancy and labor
Labor is no fun, and the effects it has on the human body are, in some cases, irreversible.
The use of a sauna helps with the process of pregnancy recovery because it stimulates the release of endorphins that can help with pain tolerance. Sweat itself also facilitates good circulation and an increase in your white blood cell count, which will help to speed up the healing process.
The sooner you heal, the better you will feel, and the more quality time can be enjoyed with your new little family!
We’ve already covered this pretty thoroughly: the heat and humidity from a sauna increase the flow of breastmilk.
This can be especially helpful for moms who have had trouble producing milk and are looking to up their supply.
Improved quality of sleep
Good-quality sleep is a hot commodity in the newborn world.
One of the side effects of using a sauna is that it can help you sleep more soundly. The amount of REM sleep you get each night is a critical indicator of how you feel the next day.
Saunas can also make mothers fall asleep more easily because of a reduction in anxiety (which can have an impact on postpartum depression).
Help with Stretch-Mark Product Absorption
Stretch marks are one of the many body changes pregnant women go through.
The steam from a sauna can help relax the skin and increase the absorption of stretch-mark creams. Vitamin A, hyaluronic acid, and coconut oil are some of the top ingredients that reduce the appearance of stretch marks.
Additionally, the sauna will allow for the skin to breathe.
While the sauna is unsafe during pregnancy, it can be a much-needed way to recover from labor and unwind postpartum.
The sauna can also help stimulate lactation, however, avoid staying inside longer than 10-15 minutes due to the risk of milk supply evaporation.
Always consult your doctor first as to if and when it is safe to use the sauna after you give birth!
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