Breast feeding and prescription medications

When it comes to breast feeding and prescription medications – it is really important to discuss this with a Health Care Professional who has excellent knowledge of the medication; the way the medication is absorbed in the body; and the likelihood of it being transferred in breast milk; and the possible side effects to both mother and baby.

The benefits of breastfeeding for the baby are so overwhelming – that the reason for the mother taking the prescribed medication needs to be considered, plus the age of her baby, and the length of time that the prescribed medication will be needed – and weighed up against the possible side effects to her baby.

For mothers with ongoing medical problems such as diabetes, epilepsy, depression, thyroid problems, arthritis etc the compatibility of breast feeding and prescription medications needs to be weighed up by an expert in that area, preferably a Paediatrician/Neonatologist who is likely to know what sort of risk – if any –  that a particular prescribed medication poses for the baby.   A medication with less side effects may be available.

Some very reassuring research published in November 2010 – showed that a group of 199 breastfeeding mothers who had been taking prescription medication epilepsy drugs such as Depakin, Epilim, Carbatrol, Tegretol, Dilantin – that their infants showed no harmful effect to their IQ which was measured when the children were 3 years old.

Breast feeding mothers who take prescription medications for thyroid problems also need to consult an expert, or get a second opinion – as the amount of prescription medication that may be passed on to the baby may be negligible.

Prescription medications taken for autoimmune conditions, rheumatoid arthritis etc may be more harmful but again, this needs to be discussed with a Specialist in the area – as to the potential harmful effects to the baby if the mother were to breastfeed.

Every decision on whether breast feeding is recommended when the Mother is taking prescribed medications – is best made on an individual basis – by an expert Health Care Professional – who has the best interests of both Mother AND baby in mind.

General information on breast feeding and prescription medications is available from organisations such as La Leche League.