03, Jun 2022

Taking Medication during Lactation (Breastfeeding) - What to Consider?

A breastfeeding mother will usually receive an overdose of advice from kith and kin, friends and neighbours, elders and women of their own age, regarding what to eat and what to avoid during breastfeeding. As there is a direct link between mother’s health and baby’s health during breastfeeding period, a mother has to show caution as to what she eats.

In such a scenario, taking medical treatment during breastfeeding is a difficult and complex situation. When mother is diagnosed with a severe or chronic illness requiring consistent medication, then it will surely spell a nightmare for her both physically and emotionally as medication will certainly have impact on her body and in the body of her baby as well. So, she needs to have a clear direction from her physician.

It is common for physicians to weigh the effects of medication on the breastfeeding infant even during pregnancy. Though the physician is in a better position to advise the mother with regard to breastfeeding and medication, physician, in general, has to make his or her decision with limited information.

Research Findings

Medication during breastfeeding is a very niche area and there are very few, randomized clinical studies have been done so far to evaluate the effects of medication on lactating women and impact on the baby. Though there are several small studies have provided clear information about the impact of certain medications on breast-milk, it is difficult to consider those as conclusive evidences as the sample size is too small. Currently, there are very few information is available with regard to adverse drug reactions and safety risks for the nursing baby for each medication.  

Mother’s Dilemma

Further, a breastfeeding mother may also avoid medication due to fear of adverse effect on the baby’s health or due to advice by friends, family and neighbours. There may also be situations where mother is advised to ‘stop breastfeeding’ for a short period to take medication or treatment, as the case may be. Mothers in such a scenario heed to it as she has very little choice leaving her to have physical and emotional impact.

Getting Physician’s Support

When there is a need for breastfeeding mother to take medication, then it is important for her to have clear and open discussion with an experienced physician or healthcare provider to make an informed decision and to ensure the impact is negligible or very minimal to the infant. Taking decisions based on online research or taking cue from a youtube video by a random physician can be dangerous. There is nothing wrong in consulting a paediatrician with regard to the compatibility of medications for the infant during breastfeeding.

Your family physician too could provide all necessary assistance, there is nothing wrong in having a consultation with him or her as well. Alternatively you can take the help of Certified Lactation Consultants who are trained in clinical management of breastfeeding. These are new age consultants who are professional enough to create a perfect bond between mother, baby and the required medication so that the difficult period becomes manageable for both mother and the infant.

Points to Consider before Making Medication Decision

Though physicians will ensure medications that are considered safe and perfectly compatible with breastfeeding, however, we can never conclude that the medication is completely ‘safe’ and cannot discount the risks involved in it. Thus, the mother need to clearly understand the following before making a medication decision.

  1. What are the potential risks to my infant when I take to this medication?
  2. Is there any known safety concerns that I need to follow with this particular medication?
  3. What are the potential risks to my health and my infant’s health if I don’t take this particular medication?
  4. How long can I prolong without taking a particular medication? How long is considered safe without that medication?
  5. What are the risks of breastfeeding during medication? Which is safe for the infant – to breastfeed or avoid breastfeeding?
  6. Is there any standard method or proven option that is generally considered ‘safer’ during lactation, even though it may delay medication period?
  7. Is this a temporary situation or will I need to take this medication for a long time?
  8. During the medication period, can I use the breast pumping to stimulate milk production so that it becomes easier to breastfeed post medication period?
  9. Is there a way to choose dosage or medication type that will minimize how much is passed onto the infant?
  10. Can this medication be given to infants directly as a safety measure? In such case, what is the quantity that baby would get through breast milk compared to the quantity that is directly given to the baby? Is this feasible?
  11. What are the properties of this particular medication?
  • How long does it take to move out of my body?
  • What are the times of the day during which my body will have the highest drug levels? How to determine that specific period? Can breast milk be taken during times of lowest drug levels in the body and the same is stored and given to the infant all day long?
  • Are the molecules small enough to pass through my breast milk? Is there a way to prevent that?
  • How my age or health condition will vary with medication? How it will impact the infant with age?
  1. How the medication will impact the immunity of the infant? Will it affect the infant’s immunity adversely?
  2. What are the symptoms to know that medication has passed onto infant’s body?
  3. What are the foods to avoid during medication? Will that affect the nutritional availability to the infant? How to supplement it?
  4. Will the breastmilk given during medication will have any long-term health risk to the infant?


You have to get clear answers to the above questions before taking up medication. Informed medication decision can clear both physical and emotional problems arising out of it. Most importantly, when you experience an adverse incident with any medication, you should immediately contact your physician to avoid your infant getting affected.

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