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Pregnancy is a huge deal, and so does caring for the little one after giving birth. It’s common for breastfeeding mothers to feel anxious about the food and medications they eat so as to not affect their child’s health. This article gives a simplified overview on medications for breastfeeding mothers. We hope that it can ease the anxiety of many breastfeeding mothers out there, and do not give up breastfeeding unless your doctor says so, because there are so many amazing benefits of breastfeeding!
There are so many medications out there, and the fastest way to find out if a medication can be taken by a breastfeeding mother is simply consulting a healthcare professional. A general rule of thumb is as follows:
Always avoid medication therapy when possible. However, this does not mean that if you’re breastfeeding you should abstain from any medications even if you’re in great discomfort! Consult a healthcare professional and they will recommend the best solution to you.
Medications that can be prescribed directly to a baby are usually safe because the doses transferred via breast milk are much lower than the doses taken by the breastfeeding mother.
Medications that cannot be taken by mouth because of poor oral absorption, such as insulin and heparin, are generally safe for breastfed babies. Both are administered via injections.
Inhalation medications, such as inhalers for asthma, are generally safe for breastfed babies.
Medications that are highly protein-bound, have low lipid solubility, short half-life or have large molecular weights do not appreciably enter breast milk. Of course, this is a technical matter and it’s something that you should consult a pharmacist.
The risk of medication toxicity is higher in preterm and ill babies and is rare in babies over six months of age.
Due to ethical concerns, many medications are not well-studied among pregnant and breastfeeding women. Hence, many medications are discouraged among breastfeeding women not because they were proven to be dangerous to mother and baby, but simply because we do not have enough data to know if they are safe to be used or not. Nonetheless, your healthcare provider would always choose medications that are well-studied in babies.
What if as a breastfeeding woman you really have to take the medications? Do not worry, here are some of the ways your healthcare provider may advise you to do:
If possible, use topical therapy, i.e. medications that can be applied onto skin. Topical therapy has lesser absorption of medications into the body system and therefore does not enter into breast milk significantly.
If your medication requires once-daily dosing, take the medications just before the longest sleep interval for the baby, usually after the bed-time feeding. This is so that by the breastfeeding time your body has already metabolised most of the medications, thus minimising its amount in the breast milk.
However, if you need to take your medications more than once, breastfeed your baby immediately before your medication time.
If you need a quick reference on the breastfeeding safety of your medication, check out The LactMed database. It is produced by the US National Library of Medicine; it is a free, authoritative reference for lactation compatibility for prescription and over-the-counter drugs. Nevertheless, your healthcare provider is your best source of information when it comes to breastfeeding do’s and don’ts. Consult them whenever you have doubts.
If you have any questions related to breastfeeding, you can consult our professional doctors and healthcare professionals on Doc2Us. Doc2Us is a mobile application that allows you to talk to a doctor or any healthcare professionals via text chat at any time and from anywhere. For better communication, you can even send our online doctor images or voice messages related to your medical inquiry.
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Note: Doc2Us is not for medical emergencies. In the event of urgent medical conditions, please call 999.
Disclaimer: As a service to our users and general public, Doc2Us provides health education contents. Please note the date of last review or update on all articles. No content on this site, regardless of date, should ever be used as a substitute for direct medical advice from your doctor or other qualified clinician.
UpToDate - Breastfeeding: Parental education and support
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