Is It Safe to Take Drugs while Breastfeeding?

Are Medications Safe when Breastfeeding?

Breastmilk after delivering your child is unavoidable and breastfeeding is highly recommended or even made mandatory by various doctors and healthcare practitioners all across the globe. Making sure your child receives all the early nutrients and antibodies is extremely essential. A risk entails in this regard if the mother is undertaking medicines or drugs to combat certain diseases or as preventive measures for a possible health condition. Since what the mother consumes ends up being had by the baby too, medication needs to be properly supervised to protect the baby from harmful effects.

Medications and Breast Milk Safety

Nowadays, most of the medicines that are usually consumed are considered safe for a lactating mother as well as her child. These will enter the breastmilk no doubt but have a less probability of affecting the little one in an unwanted way. Most pharmacists and drug stores might be aware of these medicines already. Nevertheless, it is always recommended to double check with your doctor, especially if you are purchasing any over-the-counter medication without a prescription.

How Medications Affect a Breastfeeding Baby?

In certain cases, a baby’s body might accommodate the medication within itself and, at other times, might end up reacting adversely to the same medicine as well. This is all dependent on a variety of variables ranging from the brand of the medication, the amount of dosage consumed as well as the way the mother has been medicated, either orally or intravenously and so on. While some medicines can affect the baby directly, leading to fussiness, diarrhoea, nausea and other side effects, at times, the medication can impact the production of breast milk in the lactating mother, too, resulting in lowered breast milk production and impacting the weight gain of the baby.

Factors to Be Considered while Taking Drugs during Nursing

There are few factors that need to be understood while gauging the potential impact of a medicine on your child.

1. Medicine Type

Medicines are manufactured in a variety of ways. All the substances that are contained in the medication have various chemical properties such as their molecular weight, solubility in body fat, and expulsion duration from the body’s biochemistry. Such aspects govern how long the medicine stays in the body as well as what amount might enter the breastmilk, too.

2. Medication Timeline

Every medicine takes a certain amount of time to start showing its effects on an unintended person. A mother might take a tablet for a couple of days to alleviate certain pains, which might not affect the baby at all. Other medical procedures that carry on for a week or even a month, could affect the baby in various ways.

3. Baby Feeding Patterns

Even though medicines might find their way into the breastmilk of the mother, its impact of the baby is governed by how much milk the child consumes and how frequently. Certain babies who breastfeed a little and supplement the remaining requirements with formula might be at a lower risk than babies who are used to purely breastfeeding. This also depends on the number of feeds a baby has in a day.


4. Baby’s Growth Markers

Medication effects vary across children based on their own biological constitution and health-related factors. If a child has been born prematurely with certain vital processes or organs yet to be matured fully, the medicine might have a stronger impact on such a baby, even in minuscule amounts. At times, even full-term babies with properly developed constitution might have problems processing the medication. The strength of a baby’s immune system plays a key role in this regard.

5. Medication Prescription

Depending on the ailments the medication is being taken for, the dosage might be larger than usual, which also increases the probability of a larger amount entering the milk as well. This further is connected to the time when the medicine is consumed. Any medication that has been taken around an hour prior to nursing your child has a higher chance of finding itself in the breastmilk and ending up in the baby’s body.

6. Administration Type

More than the medication, its way of reaching the body is a major factor in deciding its presence in the breastmilk of the mother. Skin-related creams or medicines have the lowest chances in this regard and are safer compared to anything else. Oral medicines, too, take their time in reaching the milk since they need to be digested via the gastrointestinal tract. Intravenous drugs, as well as injections, end up quickly into the milk since they bypass most of the processes and reach the body instantly.

General Guidelines for Taking Drugs while Breastfeeding

With all the various ways that are dependent on the medication affecting the nursing child, keeping certain guidelines in mind will help maintain vigilance in regards to the child’s health.

1. Maintain Supply of Milk

At times, it might be necessary to keep the baby off breastfeeding if a particular medication might be harmful for consumption. That being said, it is still necessary to ensure that the breastmilk supply doesn’t take a hit since the child might begin breastfeeding after the medication has faded away. Opt for pumping your breasts regularly so that the production of milk continues unhindered.

2. Observe Potential Reactions

Keep a track of your baby’s behaviour and let there be an eye out for any kind of symptoms that might indicate an allergy or a reaction to the medicine. These are usually manifested in the form of excessive sleepiness, rashes on the body, nausea, diarrhoea, and others.


3. Schedule Medication Properly

The chances of the medicine entering the baby’s body are higher if it is taken before you nurse the child. Therefore, depending on your little one’s nursing schedule, arrange your medications such that they are taken right after the feeding has completed or preferably after the last feeding at night so that it can work on your body without affecting the baby.

4. Choose The Right Drugs

Certain drugs have a functioning mechanism where they stay in the body for long and keep releasing the medication in regular amounts. Other medication might require a large amount of dosage. Talk to your doctor for an alternative that is possible at the lowest dosage amount required, and that is needed for as small a time as possible.

5. Medicate Only if Needed

Although certain illnesses might deem medication necessary, there are a few other conditions that can be combated by the body’s immune system or fade away in a few days. Unless strictly recommended by your doctor, try to avoid taking medicines as far as possible and opt for other ways to alleviate your discomfort, which would be safe for the child, too.

Drugs Considered Safe while Breastfeeding

Keeping in mind the various factors that connect medication to breastfeeding, there are certain medications allowed while breastfeeding that have been listed below.

Medicine Used For
Acetaminophen Relieving pain
Acyclovir Treating viral infections
Antacids Treating stomach problems
Caffeine Stimulating the body
Cephalosporin Treating a variety of infections as an antibiotic
Clotrimazole Combating infections due to fungi and yeast
Corticosteroids Alleviating joint and muscle inflammations
Decongestants Relieving a blocked nose
Erythromycin Treating respiratory problems due to infection
Heparin Preventing clotting of blood
Relieving pain
Insulin Controlling diabetes
Lidocaine Anaesthetising locally
Penicillin Treating bacterial infection
Verapamil Handling blood pressure

Drugs Considered Unsafe while Breastfeeding

On similar lines, there are certain drugs to avoid while breastfeeding, which have known to cause harmful effects on the child, if consumed.

Medicine Used For
Amantadine Treatment of Parkinson’s disease
Antihistamine Relieving allergic reactions
Antilipemics Lowering cholesterol levels in the blood
Aspirin Treating arthritis
Benzodiazepine Treating anxiety and sleep-related issues
Chloramphenicol Treating strong infections
Clozapine Handling schizophrenia
Dipyrone Relieving pains and inflammations
Iodide-based substances Douching of the vagina or even in various expectorants
Iodine Treatment of hyperthyroidism
Lipid-lowering medicines Reducing the fat levels in the blood
Lithium Handling bipolar disorder
Metamizole Treating various types of inflammations
Primidone Treatment of seizures
Reserpine Handling hypertension
Salicylates Treating arthritis

Is It Better to Stop Nursing while Taking Drugs?

You would always want to keep your baby safe at all times, which might make you think about temporarily keeping your baby away from breastfeeding while you are undergoing the necessary medication. As much as sense it might make, it has been clearly established that the importance of breastmilk nutrition is extremely vital, even at the minor risks medicine consumption might expose the child to. Not only does it disturb the child’s affinity to suckling on the breast, but it can cause discomfort to the mother in the form of mastitis, and even the child as he might not be compatible with the formula right away.


Alternative Remedies That Are Safe to Take when Breastfeeding

It is best to avoid medication unless absolutely necessary. Therefore, for certain illnesses or discomforting conditions, there are a few options that you can undertake which do not affect your baby.

1. For Cold or The Flu

These can occur more frequently than not, especially if the season is so. Opting for some quick steam inhalation, combined with mint or eucalyptus drops can open up the nasal passage. Go for a syrup made from glycerine and honey to treat a cough and soothe your throat. Using a nasal spray can help clear the nose as well. Many recommend taking Echinacea as soon as possible to get quick relief.

2. For Thrush

Thrush can easily get irritating for the mother but natural remedies can take care of it in no time. While going for your bath, add just a few drops of tea tree oil to the water, which provide great relief from the irritation. Complement your diet by adding some yoghurt or any probiotic food items that can counter the unhealthy microbes and restore your healthy gut.

3. For Engorgement

Breast engorgement is faced by multiple women throughout nursing. Although pumping your breasts regularly is the best way to attend to it, making use of some cabbage leaves by applying them on your breast after you have fed your baby, is a well-known natural tactic in achieving relief from engorgement.

4. For Migraines

You might be suffering from chronic migraines since before pregnancy, or might be experiencing them now during nursing. Instead of instantly opting for a painkiller right away, choose for a home remedy that acts on the core of the problem. Taking a couple of grains of pepper, and using them in your nostrils, helps open up the blood vessels located close to the head. This increases the blood flow to the brain, which helps in alleviating the migraine pain.

Are Herbal Medicines Safe while Breastfeeding?

When opting for alternatives from traditional medicines, herbal remedies might seem the best choice to go for. And some of them truly are. Echinacea is recommended widely for women in order to treat any symptoms of influenza or cold as quickly as possible. Using remedies that are based off fennel seeds or fenugreek is a great way to maintain the supply of milk or enhance it. Chamomile tea, garlic and ginger preparations and tons of others are considered safe for nursing women and bring about good benefits.

That being said, not all herbal alternatives might be the best bet. Since a wide variety of those are not laboratory-tested and don’t carry a safety guarantee or any research to support it, one ought to be cautious before opting for a natural remedy that seems rare or unusual. This even includes herbal remedies meant to treat depression, as their effects on the baby have not been documented properly.


Is It Safe to Take The Morning-After Pill when Nursing?

On a general basis, taking a morning-after pill does not pose direct harm to the baby. However, this is only possible when the mother takes a look at the instructions mentioned on the packaging and adheres to them strictly. One of the key aspects around it is to refrain from feeding your child for about 8 hours after consuming the pill. You can prepare for this by opting to pump milk in advance and storing it for your child. Another way is to prepare formula for that particular feed before letting your child nurse on your breast after the time period has passed away.

Is It Safe to Take The Pill when Breastfeeding?

Although mothers are aware that breastfeeding in itself acts as a natural means of contraception since it delays the onset of the usual menstrual cycle, that does not automatically make it safe to have sex without the consequence of another pregnancy.

Since contraceptive pills make use of various hormones, these are also linked to the breastmilk production. Hence, consuming them could affect your child’s dietary requirements. Opting for pills that make use of progesterone instead of estrogen, or using implant based contraceptive measures might be effective alternatives instead of the pill.

Going for the usual pill is generally recommended only after the baby is about 8 months old or so, and can get the necessary nutrition from a variety of sources.

Taking care of your health as well as ensuring the same for the baby can be quite a tightrope walk, especially if you are suffering from illnesses or other medical conditions. The mother and the child are still inextricably linked via the breast milk and additional care is important even at this stage. By keeping away from drugs contraindicated during breastfeeding, you can ensure a good balance of health and safety for both, and continue with motherhood without any complications.

Also Read:

Cold Medicine and Breastfeeding – Is It Safe?
Is It Safe to Take Antibiotics during Breastfeeding?

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