Medication and Breastfeeding: What You Need to Know

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jennifer-author-banner 101613 The choice to take medications or not while you are breastfeeding can be a stressful decision for many moms. This is a major decision and important that you speak with your pediatrician and a lactation consultant. The key questions to consider for taking medication during lactation are:

  • Do the benefits of the medication outweigh the possible effects on the baby?
  • Do the benefits of the medication outweigh the benefits of breastfeeding your baby and the benefits of breast milk

The answers to these two decisions should always be guided from your pediatrician and lactation consultant. Don’t stop breastfeeding because you can’t answer the questions yourself. It’s important to check in with your pediatrician with any questions. Continue reading to learn more about medication, pregnancy and breastfeeding.

How Medication Gets to Your Baby During Pregnancy

To understand how medication gets transferred to your baby from breastfeeding, it helps to understand how it gets transferred during pregnancy. When you take a medication it is digested in your body and makes its way into your bloodstream from the intestinal tract. Once in your bloodstream it can cross into your baby’s bloodstream through your placenta. There are some medications that can get through the “filters” in the placenta easier than others. This is why there are medications that are not recommended during pregnancy. These are medications that can cause problems in the fetus.

The medications that are considered safe during pregnancy cause no problems with the fetus, don’t cross the filters in the placenta or are taken in such low doses that they are virtually eliminated from your system by the time they reach the baby. Now, that you understand how the baby gets medications during pregnancy, I’ll explain how the process works during breastfeeding.

How Medication Gets to Your Baby While Breastfeeding

The explanation below assumes that are taking medications orally (or by mouth).

  • The medication goes from your mouth into your stomach.
  • Your stomach digests and breaks down the drug where it can be absorbed from your intestinal tract into your blood stream.
  • Your blood circulates in your body and passes by the milk ducts in your breasts.
  • The milk ducts absorb the drug from your bloodstream into your breast milk.
  • Your baby drinks your breast milk. The milk enters their stomach and medication in the milk is absorbed by their intestines and finally into their blood stream.

The amount of medication that gets into your baby’s blood stream after this whole process is very minimal. That said, there are medications that are absolutely prohibited during breastfeeding, but those typically are drugs that are also forbidden for women who are pregnant. A general rule is that if it is safe during pregnancy it is also safe during breastfeeding.

Always consult your doctor prior to taking any new medication while breastfeeding. More importantly you should have already consulted your doctor about any medications taken during pregnancy as the drugs can be much more harmful.

Taking a new or any medication while lactating, as stated above, should always involve the pediatrician or lactation consultant. The importance of this post was to help you understand how the human body works and arm yourself with the knowledge to make the most informed decision for you and your newborn baby.

What More Information?

I found this website helpful, BUT it’s definitely not a replacement to consulting with your doctor. Visit www.lactmed.com, this site is a Drug and Lactation Database run by the United States National Library of Medicine and the National Institute of Medicine.