Most medications are safe for use when breastfeeding. Remember that the risk during pregnancy is not the same when breastfeeding. However, some medications may be harmful to your breastfeeding-child if ingested, therefore, it is important for all breastfeeding mothers to inform their child’s pediatrician about all of the medications they are taking, including any Over-the-Counter medications and herbal supplements.
The most common products of concern include pain medications, antidepressants, and drugs to treat substance/alcohol abuse or smoking cessation.
Below are tips for breastfeeding mothers to protect their children:
- Since medications take a while to enter your blood stream, try taking medications at time of or right after breastfeeding (depending on medication schedule).
- You can “pump and dump”: If you are taking medications, such as antibiotics, you may want to pump the breastmilk with a breastpump and dump it at regular feeding times and give your baby previously pumped milk that is medication-free. This method helps to maintain your milk supply while you wait for the medications to leave your system.
- Monitor your baby for any unusual signs and symptoms such as: excessive sleepiness, irritability, or any other abnormal behavior. If you notice any change in your baby’s behavior, contact his or her doctor.
- Talk with your pharmacist and doctor about alternative medication options that will expose your baby to the least amount of medication, such as a topical cream or ointment.
- Avoid medications that have pseudoephedrine (Sudofed®) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) in them because they can decrease milk supply. Before purchasing combination products, pay careful attention to the active ingredients.
- If you need to take an antihistamine, loratadine (Claritin®) and fexofenadine (Allegra™) are safer options.
- Be sure to read the medication label carefully before taking over the counter medications while breastfeeding. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your pharmacist or doctor.
- Ask your pharmacist or doctor before taking any herbals or supplements.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (Motrin®) are safe in breastfeeding mothers.
- It is recommended that breastfeeding mothers avoid high dose aspirin or avoid breastfeeding for 1 to 2 hours after a dose.
Prepared by Serena Barden, MCV/VCU PharmD Candidate 2016
Adapted from: American Academy of Pediatrics: “Breastfeeding and Medication”