To all the mothers out there, Happy World Breastfeeding Week!
When it comes to pregnancy and childcare, people around you would often claim to be “masters” and give different kinds of information. It is annoying and confusing, but you cannot help but think about it. After all, your child’s safety could be in jeopardy.
I know for one that a lot of DoctorxDentist readers feel the same way. This post will discuss the risks and considerations involved in taking medication while breastfeeding.
Can I take medications?
This is arguably the most debated question of all time. The answer: depends.
People are mostly concerned because some substances in the medication can be transferred to breastmilk. In reality, most medications are safe to take while breastfeeding.
However, note that there are different types of medications, all with different substances. They have:
- Different target organs
- Different absorption rates within the body
- Different absorption rates in adult and infant
which is why there is no definitive answer to whether or not medications pose risks to the infant. You should always consult your doctor before taking any medication.
The amount of drugs that diffused into the breastmilk is usually small and unlikely to cause adverse effects on the infant. Thus, it is generally not necessary to suspend breastfeeding because of medication consumptions. Also, common medication with larger molecules such as Heparin and Insulin will not be transferred into breast milk .
Medication to avoid
Data from: Drugs in breastfeeding 
At the same time, there are still certain drugs that will require complete cessation of breastfeeding. This is because some substances may cause excessive drowsiness or difficulty breathing in the baby.
This includes amiodarone, antineoplastics, gold salts, opioids, and radiopharmaceuticals. You can see the picture above for more information.
Infant’s age and their ability to metabolise
Data from: Drugs Safety in Lactation 
The younger the infant, the lower their ability to clear drugs out of their system. As your infant grows up, their ability to filter out drugs adjusts according to their body surface area – meaning they are more capable to clear drugs. Most adverse effects of medications are most commonly found only in infants less than 2 months old .
Choose medications with a shorter half-life
The half-life of medications refers to the amount of time they take to reduce to 50% of its original concentration in our bloodstream. Short half-life medications usually take action quickly and their effects may wear off rapidly. The shorter the half-life, the faster it clears from your system.
It is quite important because it means that they are less likely to be found in breastmilk . Even so, request the lowest effective dose of the medication whenever possible.
Take medication right after breastfeeding
The risks drugs pose to the infant is based on the concentration of drugs in the breastmilk and the effects of the drug to the infant.
To minimize the risks, it is thus important to note when you take your medication. As a general rule, it is recommended that you take the necessary medications right after breastfeeding. This allows enough time for the drug to clear out before the next feeding session .
At times, medications can be a necessity rather than a choice
You can be assured that most medications are safe to consume. You can also minimize the risks by following the tips mentioned above.
Safety is always of utmost importance and you should always take note of your baby's reaction during breastfeeding. Monitor them for any possible adverse effects such as sedation or irritability .
Consult your doctor and discuss the workings of your medications before taking them. If necessary, you can also alternate between breastfeeding and bottle feeding.
Want to read more about breastfeeding?
Would you like to ask any related health questions?
1. Hotham N, Hotham E. Drugs in breastfeeding. Australian Prescriber. 2015;38(5):156-159. doi:10.18773/austprescr.2015.056
2. Texas Tech University Health Sciences Center. Drug entry into Human Milk. Infantrisk.com. Published 2019. Accessed August 1, 2019.
3. Drug Safety in Lactation. Govt.nz. Published 2019. Accessed August 1, 2019.