Is It Safe to Take Antibiotics while Breastfeeding

Consuming Antibiotics While Breastfeeding

The period of pregnancy is that phase in the life of a woman where she needs extra care and protection so that the baby delivered is safe and healthy. There are various do’s and don’ts that the mother needs to follow while pregnant and these increase after the baby are born.

Post-delivery, the only source of nutrition for the baby is the mother’s milk for the first few weeks. Everything that the mother eats reaches the baby via breast milk. This makes it very important for the mother to have a good diet, which is balanced and has a mix of essential nutrition. Anything that might have an adverse effect on the baby should be avoided or consumed only after consultation with a doctor. One such item is antibiotic medicines.

Is it Safe to Take Antibiotics While Breastfeeding?

The impact of antibiotics on lactation is determined by the type of medicine and the strength of the dosage that has been prescribed. The baby’s general health condition also plays an important role in determining how the body will react to the chemicals in the antibiotic.

Most of the antibiotics are considered to be safe for consumption by the mother even while breastfeeding and do not have any adverse impact on the baby’s health.

Do All Antibiotics Pass into Breastmilk?

The breast receives nutrition from the blood, and hence everything thing that is consumed by the mother has the potential to pass on to the child via breast milk, even the medicines.

The quantity of antibiotics that pass into the milk varies depending on the dosage and frequency of the medicine.

Factors That Determine the Effects of Antibiotics on Infants

Different antibiotics may have a different effect on your baby depending on various variable factors. Following are the factors that determine how an antibiotic will affect your baby:

  1. Composition of the Breast Milk: Chemical compounds that form antibiotics have a greater tendency to mix with milk which has higher protein content. This situation is more predominant in case of premature babies as the mother’s body produces milk with more protein that it would do in case of normal babies. Extra care is required before consuming any antibiotics in this case.
  1. Baby’s Age and General Health: Babies less than two months are most prone to adverse effects of antibiotics since their liver and kidneys are still developing and not matured enough to flush out antibiotics. The adversity reduces once they cross six months.
  1. Combination of Antibiotics Consumed: It is possible that if a safe antibiotic is consumed with other medicines, the drugs may cause a reaction and form compounds which may harm the baby. It is, therefore, a must to discuss with your doctor before taking in any medicine.
  1. Composition of the Drug: Composition of the antibiotic is an important determinant of its effect on the baby. Some compounds have a higher rate of binding with proteins present in the milk which will transfer higher quantities to the baby.

Safe Antibiotics while Breastfeeding

Although the consumption of antibiotics must be strictly monitored by the doctor and no medicine should be taken without due consultation, the following is a list and usage of drugs and antibiotics considered safe to be taken during lactation:

Drug name Use
Acetaminophen (Tylenol) Painkiller
Cephalosporins (Keflex, Ceclor, Ceftin, Omnicef, Suprax) Antibiotics for lung, ear, skin, urinary tract, throat, and bone infections
Warfarin Used to prevent blood clots
Clotrimazole (Lotrimin, Mycelex) Used to treat yeast and fungal infections
Erythromycin (E-Mycin, Erythrocin) Used for skin and respiratory infections
Digoxin (Lanoxin) Used to treat heart problems
Fluconazole (Diflucan) Used to treat yeast infections
Fexofenadine (Allegra) Antihistamine for allergies and hay fever
Ibuprofen (Motrin, Advil) Used for pain relief
Heparin Used to keep blood from clotting
Inhalers, bronchodilators, and corticosteroids(Albuterol, Vanceril) Used for asthma
Laxatives, bulk-forming and stool softening(Metamucil, Colace) Used to treat constipation
Lidocaine (Xylocaine) A local anaesthetic
Loratadine (Claritin) Antihistamine for allergies and hay fever
Theophylline Treats asthma and bronchitis
Thyroid replacement (Synthroid) Used for thyroid problems


Woman taking antibiotic

Unsafe Antibiotics during Lactation

Following is a list of drugs and antibiotics for breastfeeding mothers which are considered unsafe and should be avoided:

Name of Drug (Brand Name) Use
Acebutolol (Sectral) Used in the treatment of high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms.
Atenolol (Tenormin) Used in the treatment of high blood pressure and abnormal heart rhythms.
Antihistamine/decongestant combinations(Contac, Dimetapp) Used to treat colds and allergies; may cause a reduction in milk supply
Chlorthalidone Diuretic used to treat high blood pressure; may reduce milk supply
Citalopram (Celexa) Antidepressant; can result in infant drowsiness
Contraceptives (estrogen-containing) – (Ortho-Novum, Lo-Ovral, Loestrin) Used for birth control; may reduce milk supply
Doxepin (Sinequan) Used to treat depression
Ergotamine (Cafergot) Used to treat migraines
Escitalopram (Lexapro) Used to treat depression
Ethosuximide (Zarontin) Used to treat epilepsy
Fluorescein IV Used to diagnose retinal problems
Venlafaxine (Effexor) Treatment of depression


Are there Any Harmful Effects of Antibiotics?

While it is considered safe to take antibiotics when prescribed by the doctor, it is important to avoid too much use of it and only the dosage prescribed should be taken.

Consumption of non-prescribed antibiotics by the mother can lead to the following problems in the baby:

  1. May cause diarrhoea: A baby’s gut had underdeveloped strains of ‘good bacteria’ that help in digestion of food. Antibiotics not only target the disease-causing bacteria but also take down the good bacteria. In such cases, giving probiotics to the baby can be helpful in countering the antibiotics and restoring the balance of your baby’s gut flora.
  1. May cause sepsis: Sepsis is caused when a pathogen causes the immune system to overreact and damaging healthy tissues of the body. Intake of antibiotics can cause the weak immune system of the baby to react aggressively, resulting in sepsis.
  1. Change in temperament: Taking antibiotics may cause the baby to feel a little unsettled and uncomfortable. Colic-like symptoms might appear.

In addition, use of antibiotics may also case the development of thrush in the mother. It is a condition where the gut flora of the mother is affected as a result of consuming these medicines.

Things to Discuss with Doctor

During the consultation, it is important for you to let your doctor know all about your pregnancy, the nature of problems that you have come for and any medication that you are already taking or have been asked to specifically avoid. Also, inform about any medical condition or allergies that you are suffering from.

In addition, following are the things you would like to inform and discuss with your doctor about antibiotics and breastfeeding:

  1. Inform the doctor about the fact that you are lactating. This will help them avoid medicines that are not suitable for the baby.
  1. It is important to share your baby’s age and general health condition with the doctor. Also, inform if the baby is under any kind of medication.
  1. Discuss with your doctor the possibility of avoiding antibiotics.

How to Avoid the Risks of Antibiotics in Babies?

The best way to avoid side effects of antibiotics is by not having them. However, if you have to take it, follow these steps to avoid risks of adverse effect on your baby.

  1. If possible, choose antibiotic ointments and creams instead of consuming them orally. This will help to prevent the transfer of breastmilk.
  1. Request the doctor to prescribe antibiotics that are safe for the baby.
  1. Antibiotics with poor oral bioavailability in infants pass out of their digestive system without causing any harm. Prefer consumption of such antibiotics.
  1. Ensure that you take a dose right after breastfeeding so that the time gap between consumption and next breastfeeding session is maximum.

While most antibiotics are considered to be safe for lactating mothers, it is best to consume them only after consultation and prescription from the doctor.

The first few weeks after birth are very fragile for your baby. In this period, the essential organs are still developing, and the immune system is not very strong to protect them. It is thereby very important to be extremely cautious before consuming anything, especially antibiotics.

If the usage of medicines cannot be avoided, take only those medicines which have been prescribed by your doctor. Eat healthy, nutritious food to lower any impact of antibiotics on the baby.

Also Read: Headache during Breastfeeding

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