One of the more unfortunate themes we hear regularly is the tale of the PCP, dentist, psychologist, or even pediatrician telling a breastfeeding mother she must wean in order to take a necessary medication.
Mother after mother tells us she was told to pump and dump for 24 hours following minor surgery, told to wean cold turkey before taking antibiotics, or simply told she had no options for treating anxiety or depression while nursing. I, myself, was told I could not take Ativan while nursing my 14-month old, even though overwhelming research shows this medication is safe for breastfeeding. I wasn’t surprised to hear this.
One study found that, nationally, “physicians were ill-prepared to counsel breast-feeding mothers”–they are receiving inadequate training and, unfortunately, giving mothers incorrect information about medication.
The truth is that most medications are safe for breastfeeding mothers. If not, there are usually alternative medications that are safe.
Resources for Medication Information
Almost all breastfeeding women will have to take at least one medication during their nursing relationship. If you’re concerned about this medication interacting with your breastmilk, please consider one of these resources before making a decision about weaning your baby:
Dr. Thomas Hale is a researcher based at Texas Tech University, who studies the effects of medications in breastmilk. He publishes a book called Medications and Mothers Milk, which outlines a huge index of medications and makes recommendations as to their safety for use while breastfeeding.
The Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center also runs the Infant Risk Center, which not only researches medications and their use in pregnancy and breastfeeding, but they also maintain a hotline. You (or your doctor!) can call in during Central Time business hours to ask questions about any medication you have concerns about.
They’ve produced a companion website called MommyMeds.com, which is a user-friendly site that explains medications without the medical jargon–they’ve got searchable articles about everything from thyroid medication to hair products. They’ve got an app for consumers and an app for healthcare providers. It could be that your provider simply doesn’t know about up-to-date research about medications–it’s definitely worth asking.
LactMed is a free, online database maintained by the National Library of Medicine in the United States. You (or your healthcare provider) can access the list and check on any medication. LacMed also has a free app you can quickly reference from your smartphone! Sometimes, LactMed and Infant Risk differ in their assessment of a particular drug. That’s why it’s important to discuss these resources with your healthcare provider.
We know the effects of not breastfeeding your baby can be widespread–we definitely want to make sure you have all the information you need to make a decision about your health. Hopefully, one of these resources can guide you safely to and from the pharmacy!
Did a doctor ever tell you a medication was unsafe for breastfeeding? Leave us a comment to share your experience.