Loyola University Chicago

Healthy Homes & Healthy Communities

Preparing for a baby

Expectant parents can take several steps to protect themselves and their babies from lead hazards:

  • Assume lead hazards in pre-1978 homes. Expectant parents living in a home built before 1978 should assume it has lead paint and reduce lead hazards in the home. If you are planning to renovate, follow Lead-Safe Work Practices.
  • Wash hands frequently. Because it is easy to collect lead dust on one's hands, all household members should wash their hands before cooking and eating.
  • Avoid folk medicines and cosmetics. Pregnant women should not use certain cosmetics or medicine  that contain lead.
  • Reduce lead exposures from hobbies and work. Pregnant women should avoid hobbies that expose them to lead, and if someone in the home works with lead on the job or as a hobby, he or she should shower and change clothes before going home to prevent bringing lead into the home.
  • Eat healthy foods. The same foods that are recommended to ensure a healthy pregnancy also may help prevent lead from getting into the blood and harming the unborn baby. These include foods high in calcium, vitamin C, and iron.
  • Use cold tap water. Homes with older plumbing fixtures may have pipes with lead. Always use cold water: warm water is more likely to retain lead. Cold water should be used only after it has been running from the tap and feels cold. Only cold water should be used to make baby formula.
  • Get regular prenatal medical care. Pregnant women should make regular visits to their doctors. Healthcare providers can answer questions about lead exposure and also give or order blood lead tests.
  • Become familiar with other poisons. See Your Guide to Poisoning Issues During Pregnancy from the Illinois Poison Control Center.

Breast-feed. While there may be some lead in breast milk if the mother has high levels of lead, research does not suggest that breastfeeding would be harmful to the baby. Consult your doctor.