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Who does not love the pretty flowers and the warm sun that comes along with this new season? It is officially spring and lovely weather is finally upon us but along with that comes the pollen. The pollen count this year is extremely high and as a mom, you may be concerned about what you can do to alleviate your symptoms. How do you choose safe medications while breastfeeding? Do you need to stop breastfeeding while taking medications and what medications are safe for you to take? Questions like these are not uncommon.
Breastfeeding has many health benefits for both mom and baby and does not need to be stopped while taking most medications. Many women often stray away from taking medications while breastfeeding but contrary to popular belief… many medications are actually safe to take.
The amount of medication transferred in breastmilk is normally very low and does not pose a great risk to infants and young children according to Dr. Thomas Hale, the author of Medications and Mother’s Milk 2017.
Option to Cease Breastfeeding
All you want to do, ultimately, is keep your baby safe, but there can be downsides to opting to completely stop breastfeeding while taking medications. Some mothers consider weaning and giving formula to supplement, when in fact formula itself can have its own health risks. Pumping and dumping while taking medications is an option but, then again, do you really want to waste your “liquid gold”. Both weaning and pumping and dumping can have a negative impact or cause discomfort for you and your baby. Your milk supply may also decrease due to lack of stimulation from baby or your baby may not want to return to nursing after introducing the bottle. Research has shown that its best to not stop breastfeeding while taking medications unless it is absolutely warranted.
How do you determine safe medications while breastfeeding?
Make it a practice to always read the label on an over the counter (OTC) medication package to see how the medication may affect breastfeeding. You should always consult your physician or pharmacist to find out if a medication is safe to take while breastfeeding. OTC’s, supplements and prescription medications can sometimes be transferred through breast milk and/or affect your milk supply. If you are prescribed a medication by your physician, always remember to inform your physician that you are breastfeeding just in case your healthcare provider needs to recommend an alternative. This helps to ensure that you receive safe medications while breastfeeding.
Things to think about before taking medications while breastfeeding:
- How old is the child? Older children can metabolize drugs faster and are often times at less risk.
- Is the child healthy? More caution is required for immunocompromised babies, premature babies and babies with poor functioning kidneys and lungs.
- Is this a medication that can safely be administered to a baby or a young child? The amount of medication that passes through breastmilk is significantly lower than what you would ingest so is this a medication safe for baby themselves.
Medical conditions unsafe for breastfeeding:
- Cancer – Radiation and chemotherapy agents can be harmful to an infant.
- HIV – HIV and antivirals can be passed to baby through breast milk.
- Untreated Active Tuberculosis – if left untreated, can be unsafe and harmful to baby.
Safe Medications While Breastfeeding (per the Mayo Clinic)
For those spring time allergies:
- Zyrtec (cetirizine)
- Claritin (loratadine)
- Allegra (fexofenadine)
Please note that other antihistamines with a sedative effect include diphenhydramine and doxylamine. These sedative OTC meds are not ideal for breastfeeding but are not proven to be unsafe.
- Tylenol (acetaminophen)
- Advil/Motrin (ibuprofen)
- Naproxen *should be used for short-term use only
For cough and cold:
- Dextromethorphan (found in Delsym)
- Guaifenesin (found in Mucinex and Robitussin)
- Pseudophedrine *may affect milk supply
For runny nose:
- Afrin (oxymetazoline) *do not use for more than 3 days to avoid the rebound affect
- Colace (docusate)
- Paxil (paroxetine)
- Zoloft (sertraline)
For acid reflux or heartburn:
- Pepcid (famotidine)
Medications that should be avoided include aspirin, naproxen, Pepto Bismol and high consumption of zinc lozenges while honey, Echinacea and Vitamin C are good alternatives to try if you wish to avoid OTC medications for a cough and cold altogether.
Taking safe medications while breastfeeding is completely acceptable. You can always consult your physician or use online databases like Lactmed.com, (US National Institutes of Health’s Drugs and Lactation Database) and infantrisk.com to check any OTC medication out further. Both are reliable databases that can be used to check and see if a medication is compatible with breastfeeding. Remember, breastfeeding is a healthy choice for your little one and is recommended by the American Academy of Pediatrics. It has many proven benefits including nutritional, psychological, and gastrointestinal health and except in certain situations there is no reason to be deterred from breastfeeding if you need to take medications.
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