Being sick is never fun, being sick while breastfeeding can be downright miserable. Although most medications are safe to use while breastfeeding, moms often worry about the effect they can have on their child and fear they will have to “pump and dump” or stop nursing entirely. Sooner or later in your nursing career, you will be confronted with the choice of taking some medication, whether it is for something as simple as a common cold, ailments directly linked to breastfeedings like mastitis, or something more complicated. So
- Always let your health care provider know that you are nursing and how old your baby is when being prescribed medicine or buying medication over the counter. Infants younger than six months and that nurse frequently and rely solely on breastmilk for nutrition are more likely to be affected by foreign substances in breastmilk.
- Whenever possible, take your medication right after breastfeeding so your body has time to metabolize the medicine before your next feeding session.
- Keep a list of over-the-counter medications that are proven to be safe (and those that have not) while breastfeeding in a handy place to check if necessary. It might also be a good idea to keep some in your house or in your purse, so you do not find yourself in a difficult spot at an inconvenient moment.
- If you know in advance you will need to take a medication that will require you to stop nursing, you can pump and freeze some breastmilk in advance so you can stockpile enough to keep feeding your baby as long as possible while taking your medication.
- If you have a doubt, call the InfantRisk Center helpline (1-806-352-2519) or check the LactaMed database (they have a convenient app) before taking a new medication.
- Avoid unnecessary supplements while breastfeeding, including high doses of vitamins and herbal dietary supplements like herbal teas which are not regulated by the FDA, unless cleared by your health care provider.
- Unless instructed to do so by your general practitioner, do not stop breastfeeding while taking medication: it is likely that you could end up with engorged breasts that could lead to blocked ducts and mastitis. Some babies also have a hard time going back to breastfeeding after being weaned suddenly, even as a temporary solution.
- Don’t let yourself get run down: if you are sick or tired, your milk production might slow down, which would affect your baby more than the amount of medicine that transfers to breastmilk for most medications. Take care of yourself and stay healthy.
- Don’t hesitate to call your pediatrician’s office if you notice any adverse symptoms in your baby, such as increased irritability, fussiness or sleepiness, that you think might be linked to a medication you are taking.
As always, when it comes to your health and that of your baby, always call your doctor’s office if you have any questions.