breastfeeding and poison ivy

Don't let your baby play

in poison ivy

Last summer, I got a rash on my breast. I had been breastfeeding for 6 months and had already dealt with bloody nipples and clogged milk ducts (among other things) so I was kind of an expert at self-diagnosing breast issue. I was pretty sure I didn't have thrush, but I couldn't figure out what was going on.

I was nervous about continuing to nurse my daughter, but my doctor had always said it was okay to do so even when I was sick—unless I had a serious disease. I didn't have a fever and was feeling pretty normal (aside from the itchy, inflamed, scaly rash on my breast) so I continued to nurse her. It was painful. I was itchy. The "rash" spread and covered both of my breasts and my upper chest and neck.

I went to the doctor who sent me straight to a dermatologist. The derm diagnosed me with "contact dermatitis" or poison ivy. I had lots of questions:

Could I continue to breastfeed? Yes, the poison ivy would not affect my milk or my daughter's health.

Should I be worried about the poison ivy spreading to my baby? Nope. According to Herbert Goodheart, a dermatologist and the author of Goodheart’s Photoguide of Common Skin Disorders, babies don't get poison ivy even when they've been exposed. The dermatologist assured me my daughter would be fine—and she was. I, on the other hand, suffered for close to three weeks until it cleared up.

Can it be safely treated? Yes. The dermatologist had given me a prescription for a low-dose topical steroid cream. I opted not to use this even though both my OB/Gyn and my daughter's pediatrician said it would be okay to use and breastfeed. Instead, I made a mixture of baking soda and witch hazel and put in on the rash between breastfeeding sessions to alleviate the itch.

How did I get poison ivy on my boobs? The doctor didn't have the answer to this one, but I can make a pretty good guess. We went for a hike, my daughter touched poison ivy, and then she put her fingers in her mouth. I breastfed her and she put her mouth on my nipples as her little hands touched my breasts and my chest and my neck.

To prevent this from happening to you: Wash your hands and your baby's hands immediately after being outside (particularly in a place where there could be poison ivy). Do not breastfeed until you have done so. I now keep a bar of Burt's Bees Poison Ivy Soap by my sink and use it to wash my hands whenever I come indoors.

Have you ever had poison ivy on your breasts? Do you have any tips for preventing it? Did you continue to breastfeed?