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Medications And Breastfeeding: What You Should Know

Whether or not to breastfeed is a debate that many mothers have to themselves when having a baby. There are a lot of intricacies to keep in mind when it comes to nursing a baby. Breastfeeding and bottle-feeding have their own sets of complications to look into. For those of you who do choose to breastfeed, one of the most pertinent factors to consider is the use of medication during the period of nursing, keeping in mind that almost everything that goes into your body will affect your baby while being breastfed.

There may be some medicines that you’ve been instructed to take or that you normally take in certain situations such as when you have a fever or a cold or for any aches and pains. These may or may not impact your baby. Here are some things to keep in mind about using medications when you’re breastfeeding.

Passing it on:

Most of the drugs that a woman ingests will pass on into her breastmilk, which means her baby will get a little bit of the compounds present in the drug. It has been found that almost all medications are found in the mother’s breast milk, however, in very small quantities which are generally less than one percent of the dose taken by the mum. All these medications must pass through the bloodstream before than can affect the breast milk, therefore, the time when they are most strongly present in the milk would be around 30-40 minutes post the taking of the medicine.


Affecting your baby:

Certain factors which influence the extent to which a baby is likely to be affected by the presence of the medication in the milk include the age of the baby, the health of the baby, the number of feedings in a day, etc. Infants and younger babies are more likely to be affected by drugs present in the milk. If a baby was born prematurely, he/she is more likely to have underdeveloped kidneys and liver which could lead to the medication affecting the baby more than normal. In addition, babies who are fed more times a day are expected to receive more of the drugs than babies who are fed less often.


Most medications that mums might take do not have any adverse effects on babies. However, there may be some medications that are dangerous or unfit to take while breastfeeding. It is essential that mothers consult general physicians or paediatricians in order to find out whether the medications they are taking are ok to be had while breastfeeding. It’s important to give your doctor all the information about your medications and your baby’s health so that the doctor can make an informed decision. As mentioned earlier, the health of the baby can affect the extent to which he/she is affected by the mediation.

Medication and Administration:

There are some medications which have short half-lives which means they do not stay in the bloodstream for long. These medications are less likely to be present in maternal milk and therefore less likely to be ingested by the baby. Medications which are not combined or have only one or two active ingredients would be preferable over combined medicines. If possible, try to have medication which doesn’t cause drowsiness so as to not affect your child’s sleeping patterns. When it comes to how the medication is administered or taken, note that medicines that are ingested orally or injected into the bloodstream are likely to have a higher presence in maternal milk than medicines that are applied externally, such as ointments, or administered in the form of drops.


As mentioned earlier, the period when medications have the highest presence in the bloodstream is about 30 to 40 minutes after being administered. In order to minimize a baby’s exposure to medicines not required by the baby, it is advisable to take the medications immediately after feeding, if and when possible, in order to ensure that the longest possible amount of time has passed between the administration of the medicine and the next feeding; this will give the medicine more time to exit the bloodstream.

Some mothers consider stopping the breastfeeding while on medication as they feel this may be a safer option; However, the benefits of breastfeeding are numerous. To ensure that these benefits outweigh any negative consequences of medications being taken by the mother, consult a doctor and try to reduce the number of medicines being taken; there is also the option of substituting some medicines for milder or safer alternatives which affect your baby less.

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