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Prescription Medication Use

Is it safe for mothers to use prescription medications while breastfeeding?

Health Care Providers: Review the most up-to-date information available on medications and lactation when advising breastfeeding mothers on LactMed®.

Although many medications do pass into breast milk, most have no effect on milk supply or on infant well-being. Few medications are contraindicated while breastfeeding. A 2013 clinical report by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP), “The Transfer of Drugs and Therapeutics into Human Breast Milk: An Update on Selected Topics,” indicates that most medications and immunizations are safe to use during lactation.

According to AAP, health care providers should weigh the risks and benefits when prescribing medications to breastfeeding mothers by considering the following:

  • Need for the drug by the mother.
  • Potential effects of the drug on milk production.
  • Amount of the drug excreted into human milk.
  • Extent of oral absorption by the breastfeeding infant.
  • Potential adverse effects on the breastfeeding infant.
  • Age of the infant.

Breastfeeding mothers should inform their health care provider and their child’s pediatrician of any medications or supplements they are taking, including herbal and over-the-counter products.

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Where can I search for specific medications and their safety while breastfeeding?

Note to Breastfeeding Mothers: Tell your health care provider and your baby’s provider about any medications or supplements you are taking, including vitamins, herbs, and over-the-counter products.

The US National Library of Medicine (NLM) at the National Institutes of Health (NIH) maintains LactMed®, a database containing information on drugs and other chemicals to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed.

LactMed® includes information on the levels of such substances in breast milk and infant blood, and the possible adverse effects in the nursing infant. Suggested therapeutic alternatives to those drugs are provided, where appropriate.

All data are derived from the scientific literature and fully referenced. A peer review panel reviews the data to assure scientific validity and currency.

Additional Resources:

The Organization of Teratology Information Specialists (OTIS) provides information, in English and Spanish, for women and health care providers on the risks and safety of taking medication during pregnancy and breastfeeding. This group maintains a website called Mother to Baby.

Visit the World Health Organization's resources on breastfeeding and American Academy of Pediatrics’ website on Breastfeeding and Medication for additional information.

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