Approximately 1% of any medication you take when you are nursing is passed on to your baby through your breast milk. While this might seem minimal, there are some medicines that you should avoid to keep your baby as safe and healthy as possible!
Newborn Babies Are Most Vulnerable
The younger your baby is, the more vulnerable he or she will be to the effects of any medicines you are taking. This is because it takes time for a baby’s liver and kidneys to develop to the point where they can function effectively.
During your baby’s first 3-6 months of life, you should be extremely mindful of consuming anything that could be passed on via your breast milk.
Common Medicines to Avoid
Unless otherwise advised by your doctor, the following medicines should be avoided when you are breastfeeding:
- Aspirin – Common in many cold, cough and flu medications, aspirin is known to have blood thinning properties which can cause rashes and abnormal bleeding in breastfed babies. Taking aspirin can also put your baby at increased risk of developing Reye’s syndrome, which is a potentially fatal condition that impacts the liver and brain.
- Codeine – A popular component of pain relief medicines, taking codeine while nursing can cause colic and/or constipation in your baby. Codeine can also cause sedation, which can be problematic if you are the primary caregiver for your child.
- Ergotamine – Often found in migraine medication, ergotamine taken by a breastfeeding mum can have serious side effects for a baby, including convulsions, vomiting and diarrhoea.
- Antihistamines with Sedatives – Taking these can cause both you and you baby to become drowsy, lethargic and even irritable; if you do need to take antihistamines, talk to your doctor first about an appropriate formula that will not contain sedatives.
The following common medicines can also have an impact on your capacity to produce breast milk, so should be avoided unless your doctor advises otherwise:
- Bromocriptine – Commonly used in medications that treat type-2 diabetes, Parkinson’s disease and pituitary tumours, bromocriptine can drastically reduce your ability to produce breast milk, which can mean your baby won’t be getting the right volume of milk it needs.
- Pseudoephedrine, phenylpropanolamine and phenylephrine – All 3 of these decongestants are commonly found in cold and flu medications and can also inhibit a nursing mother’s milk production.
- Birth control pills – Contraceptive pills that contain oestrogen can interfere with the production of breast milk.
Reducing the Impact
Care should be taken when ingesting any type of medicine while breastfeeding. If you do need to take any pills (such as those approved by your doctor), you can minimise the impact of the medicines on your baby by:
- Taking your medication directly after breastfeeding; this will maximise the amount of time it has to be diluted in your system before the next feeding
- Taking the lowest dosage possible for the shortest amount of time; medications designed for children, for instance, are often the most suitable options for breastfeeding mums
- Looking for drops or spray versions of medication instead of taking tablets, as this will minimise the amount that can enter into your breast milk
Always Ask Your Doctor!
If you are breastfeeding, always speak to your doctor or paediatrician before taking any type of medication, regardless of how safe you think it is. If you are experiencing any pain or infections, you may be able to alleviate your discomfort by:
- Getting lots of rest
- Drinking plenty of water
- Consuming warm drinks (e.g. hot water with lemon)
Looking for a gynaecologist in Sydney?
Dr. Matthew Wilson is an experienced gynaecologist who can advise you on medicines and much more throughout your pregnancy journey. Book your first appointment now.