Knowing which medications you can take while breastfeeding isn’t always easy. Almost every medication says to consult a doctor if you’re pregnant or breastfeeding. Many times, doctors don’t know either. Can you find out if breastfeeding is compatible with the medication you’re considering? Let’s learn how to use two resources: LactMed and MommyMeds.
INFO TO KNOW ABOUT YOUR BREASTMILK
Your body is incredible! It filters your blood so you can stay healthy and it filters your breastmilk to protect your baby. How long it takes to filter medications through breastmilk depends on the specific drug. It has a lot do with how fat soluble the med is. If you want to learn how your body filters alcohol through your breastmilk, check out this article.
WHY ARE LACTMED AND MOMMYMEDS IMPORTANT?
Time and time again, IBCLCs hear stories about mamas who end up in the ER or surgery for a variety of reasons. Many times, mom is instructed to pump and dump for… Fill in the blank. 24 hours. 1 week. 2 weeks. Often this is a break they don’t recover from. Especially if breastfeeding is new, baby is learning to latch, and mom is establishing her milk supply. Not that they can’t get through that hurdle. It is possible to return to breastfeeding. It just proves extremely difficult to mamas who don’t have someone guiding them. Or guiding them early enough.
In the hospital setting, lactation consultants usually hear the story a few weeks after it happened when patients go to their post partum appointment. The story goes something like this. Mom ends up in the ER. She’s instructed not to breastfeed but to “pump and dump” for a week due to a medication. After the week is over, she tries to put baby to breast. Either baby won’t latch or mom’s supply is very low. They are now 100% on formula much earlier than mom wanted. No one knows this is happening to mom until her post partum follow up.
Often, the break from breastfeeding isn’t necessary. Healthcare workers don’t always know medications compatible with breastfeeding. Pharmaceutical companies almost always say not to breastfeed. They didn’t do the research, though. It’s important to verify with a breastfeeding resource.
Medications and Breastfeeding Compatibility
The CDC reports, “Although many medications do pass into breast milk, most have little or no effect on milk supply or on infant well-being. Few medications are contraindicated while breastfeeding.”
Medications do have a wide range of effects. Look up each item you take and tell your health care provider and lactation consultant about any medications you are talking. Herbs, vitamins, and over-the-counter meds included.
You can search, LactMed, known as Drugs and Lactation Database. Do an internet search for ‘LactMed’.Next, you can search by the drug name you’re interesting in. You can use either the generic name or the brand name. For example, if you search Tylenol, Acetaminophen will come up. If you click the link for the medication, you’ll find information about it, including:
- A summary of its compatibility with lactation
- Studies done with mothers and infants and that medication
- Effects found in breastfed infants
- Effects on lactation (such as if it decreases milk supply)
- Alternate drugs to consider
- The source of the information
Thomas Hale, RPh, PhD is continually researching the compatibility of different substances and breastfeeding. His sources get updated with new findings. (So, the physical book needs updating!) There are over 1,300 medications.
MommyMeds and Hale’s other versions of the information are a little more user friendly than LactMed. One of the reasons for this is because he gives each drug a Lactation Risk Category (LRC). Here is a short description of what they stand for:
L3: Probably Safe
L4: Possible Hazardous
Within this LRC framework, you’ll consider whether the benefit to mom outweighs the potential risk to baby. On average, the medications I look up are L2. This flyer may help you.
It matters how old your baby is, how much breastmilk they consume, if they were premature. When you talk to your healthcare provider about breastfeeding and medications, you may need to bring your resources to help you talk to them.
Some medications are safe for baby but impact mom’s milk supply.
Most health care providers don’t have a lot of education in breastfeeding. They get very little during their schooling. So, while they may be very knowledgeable in their field, when combining medication and breastfeeding, there’s a learning curve. They may not even know where to look. You can help them by telling them about LactMed and MommyMeds!
Thomas Hale’s Medications and Mother’s Milk is THICK. Remeber is contains over 1,300 meds currently! It’s okay if someone can’t remember the specifics. The important thing is to know how to look it up.
It’s always okay to seek a second opinion. Especially if someone is encouraging you to wean before you’re ready or recommending you “pump and dump.”
WHAT YOU CAN DO
So, next time you want to take a medication, you have resources. You can:
- download the MommyMed app or search LactMed
- ask your provider to look the med up on LactMed or Hale’s resources
- call your local IBCLC and ask them to look it up
- call the Infant Risk Center and they’ll read you Hale’s resources
Whether you find yourself wanting to take Tylenol or needing surgery, I hope this is helpful for you. You don’t have to rely on the pharmaceutical ad. You or your doctor can look up if the medication is actually compatible!
Help another mama not dump out her milk by sharing this info!