Medication and Breastfeeding – What’s safe?

Many mothers are wrongly told to stop breastfeeding when they have to take medication, or told to stop a necessary medication if they want to continue breastfeeding, because of potential harmful effects on the baby.

breastfeefing-medsA clinical report was just released online this week, regarding the passing of medications through the breast milk to baby. The American Academy of Pediatrics provides guidance to doctors regarding drug exposure and reaffirming that most medications and immunizations are safe during lactation.

It is very important that breastfeeding mothers inform the baby’s pediatrician of any medications she is taking, including homeopathic and herbal remedies. Although many drugs are not present in significant amounts in the breast milk or pose a risk to the infant, some medications can be harmful. Either they accumulate in the breast milk or because of the effect they have on the mother or infant.

The most common medications of concern are:

  • Pain medication
  • Antidepressants
  • Drugs to treat alcohol/substance abuse, or to help quit smoking
  • Illegal substances

Vaccines that are recommended to postpartum women are designed to protect the breastfeeding mother and her infant.

Although most medications are perfectly safe while breastfeeding, the AAP advises pediatricians to obtain the most up to date information on lactation and medication. NIH – The National Institute of Health, provides an online database available at LactMed, which can help physicians get current information on specific drugs and guide their advice to breastfeeding women.

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