Are Medications Safe for Breastfeeding Mothers?

What meds can you take while breastfeeding?What meds can you take while breastfeeding?When you become pregnant, all the advice is given to you about what is safe and what isn't. And once baby is born, the same rigmarole is thrown at you, from family, friends, and even doctors. Everyone has their own opinion, some based on facts, some on hearsay, and some on the unknown. And then there's the internet to help cloud your mind. It's hard to know who or what to trust these days.

One important topic many moms seek knowledge about is breastfeeding. In addition to wanting tips and tricks for having a successful nursing journey, safety for their babies is of the utmost concern. So when the Official Journal of the American Academy of Pediatrics released an article this month saying, "Many mothers are inappropriately advised to discontinue breastfeeding or avoid taking essential medications because of fears of adverse effects to their infants," many breastfeeding moms quickly wanted to know what it was all about.

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As I'm gearing up to have baby sister, and thoughts of breastfeeding success are always on my mind, this study makes me feel much more confident that what I put in my body will not be as much of a concern. When I breastfed my first daughter, in addition to supply issues, I was always fretting over taking medications, and most of the time went without because so many people out there said it was better to be safe than sorry. And when you're dealing with your baby, his or her well-being always comes first.

There was a point after having my daughter that I started to wonder if I was dealing with postpartum depression and/or anxiety (PPD/A). I went to my doctor and filled out a survey, sobbing. I've always been prone to anxiety and panic attacks, but after a brief stint of being on anti-anxiety medication, I decided to go without, and was able to manage it on my own before getting pregnant. I was so worried at that moment that if I was diagnosed that I would have to be put back on medications, which caused me more angst over breastfeeding as I so desperately wanted to do it.

I was lucky enough to not get this diagnosis, as my emotional status was more associated with baby blues and all the shifting of your hormones after you delivery baby. But I do know many moms who've been diagnosed and took medications to treat PPD/A. Some continued to breastfeed, while others didn't, as the fear of passing the medication on to their newborns was on their minds.

What this recommendation by the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) does is empower these women, and new mothers, to make logical and informed decisions. What the AAP simply says is that advice was always given to either stop breastfeeding or not take a medication because of the lack of evidence out there concerning medications to know for sure if it can cause harm to infants or even if enough of a specific prescription is passed through breast milk to babies.

The AAP is now saying, "Therefore, with the exception of radioactive compounds requiring temporary cessation of breastfeeding, (you) will be referred to LactMed to obtain the most current data on an individual medication," instead of doctors telling you one way or another.

When you go to the site, you can search for a medication, click on the "LactMed" link, and get the most recent information about a specific prescription in relation to breastfeeding and the transfer of it via breast milk. You can even download the free LactMed App for the iPhone or Android to have even easier access to this information. I already have in preparation for breastfeeding baby sister and I have to say it's super simple to use and presents information in a way as to not feel too intimidated by all the doctor lingo.
Of course there are medications doctors already know can have adverse effects if transferred to Baby via breastfeeding, but with the knowledge that there are many more out there that are virtually safe to use, especially when weighing the pros and cons of taking a prescription drug, perhaps breastfeeding moms will have more longevity with nursing, or perhaps know that they can do it with their infants when they thought in the past they couldn't.

-By Tracy Brennan

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