Are meds OK while breastfeeding?
Physicians often caution breastfeeding mothers to be aware of the medications they are taking and their potential risk to the baby. The fear? Medication could be transferred through the breast milk and possibly affect the baby. However, a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) says that many medications are safe for moms to take while breastfeeding.
Despite warnings, the report says that most medications are actually OK to take while breastfeeding. As always, it’s important for breastfeeding women to tell their child’s pediatrician what medications they are taking, but for the most part they should be able to safely continue to take the medications they need.
The new report aims to provide guidance to physicians about drug exposure during breastfeeding. It refers women and their doctors to LactMed, a database provided by the National Institutes of Health (NIH). LactMed provides current information on individual medications and their transfer through breast milk.
Dr. Andrea Kane, pediatrician with Advocate Medical Group in Bloomington-Normal, Ill., says using a resource like your child’s pediatrician or an app like LactMed through the NIH can often alleviate fears of medications. “Both mom and baby’s health must be considered when nursing and taking medications. Most of the time the medication will be safe or a similar alternative will be available,” says Dr. Kane.
There are some classes of medications that are known to be harmful. This can be due to their accumulation in breast milk or to their effects on the nursing child or mother. The most common ones include pain medications, antidepressants and medications to treat substance abuse. Medications such as ibuprofen, acetaminophen and naproxen are suggested for safer pain relief options. The report did, however, warn against the use of off-label drugs, as these are used for unapproved purposes.
Most drug labels currently have a blanket legal statement warning against taking nearly any medication while pregnant. There is a push by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) requiring drug makers to study how medications can affect breast-fed babies. The FDA wants to better communicate that information with women and their doctors.
In the report, the AAP in consultation with the FDA describes changes for drug labels. These new labels would replace the current section, “Nursing Mothers,” with the new heading of “Lactation.” There would be more detailed information about a drug’s potential transfer through breast milk and possible harm to the infant.
The AAP recommends all physicians stay current on medications and their effects on breastfeeding. Rather than a blanket approach, these changes may help physicians better inform their patients of what is safe and what is unsafe to take while breastfeeding.
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