Medicines and Breastfeeding
5 things you need to know about medicines and breastfeeding
Breast is best. However if you are breastfeeding, ask our pharmacists at Fresh Therapeutics before you take a medicine (prescription or over the counter), natural remedy or complementary medicine as:
1. Some medicines can reduce milk flow or production
2. Many medicines pass from mother’s bloodstream into milk supply but usually in amounts too small to be harmful to baby
3. Some medicines that pass into breast milk can affect baby and some can be harmful to baby
4. Some herbal remedies, natural products and complementary medicines can pass into breast milk and affect baby
5. Medicines in creams on the breast may be ingested by baby
For more advice and information see us in-store, check out the full article about medicines and breastfeeding below.
The first week of August is World Breastfeeding Week. It is celebrated every year around the world to encourage breastfeeding and improve the health of babies worldwide. This year’s theme is ‘Sustaining breastfeeding together’. This theme focusses on working together for the common good.
Australian statistics from the 2010 Australian National Infant Feeding Survey showed that although most babies (96%) in Australia were initially breastfed, only 39% of babies were exclusively breastfed to 3 months, and only 15% were breastfed to 5 months.
‘Exclusive breastfeeding’ means the child receives only breast milk (including expressed milk) and no other fluids, food or water (with the exception of vitamins, minerals and medicines where necessary). The National Health and Medical Research Council’s Infant Feeding Guidelines recommend exclusive breastfeeding of infants until 6 months of age, with combined complementary food and breastfeeding until 12 months of age. Breastfeeding provides health benefits for both breastfed babies and breastfeeding mothers.
Let’s consider taking medicines when breastfeeding.
Medicines can be defined as either prescription (only available with a prescription from a healthcare professional such as a doctor), over-the-counter (available without a prescription, often from a pharmacy) and complementary (e.g. herbal, natural and alternative medicines). Most medicines pass into breast milk but usually only in very small quantities. These quantities are generally too small to be harmful to the baby.
Many women will take some kind of medicine when breastfeeding. Some breastfeeding mothers may need to take medicine regularly to treat a medical condition. Others may take medicine occasionally when required to treat a sudden, limiting condition such as a headache, cough or cold. It is important when using any medicine while breastfeeding to consider the benefits to the mother compared with any risk it may pose to the baby. Discuss this with your doctor or pharmacist.
Before taking any medicines, ask the pharmacist if they are safe to take while breastfeeding and confirm the correct dose. Check the active ingredients as the type and strength may differ between brands and you do not want to take more than is required. If you are unsure, always check with the pharmacist. Medicines such as simple pain relievers (e.g. paracetamol and ibuprofen) are safe to take by breastfeeding mothers in the lowest recommended dose.
Many cough and cold medicines contain a combination of ingredients to treat the symptoms of coughs and colds. Some of the active ingredients in these preparations may interfere with the mother’s ability to make milk (e.g. oral decongestants), or cause side effects in your baby (e.g. codeine, sedating antihistamines, or oral decongestants). Avoid cough and cold preparations that contain a combination of ingredients when breastfeeding. Instead, if needed, it is sometimes safer to use cough and cold preparations with only one active ingredient to treat a specific symptom of your cold. Other ways of relieving cough and cold symptoms that do not require taking medicines include resting, drinking plenty of water, gargling warm, salty water or drinking honey and lemon drinks to soothe the throat.
Some medicines should not be taken when breastfeeding. Chemotherapy agents (drugs for cancer), ergotamine derivatives (e.g. bromocriptine), gold salts, iodine, amiodarone (used for heart rhythm problems), radiopharmaceuticals (for nuclear medicine scans), and illegal or street drugs should not be taken when breastfeeding.
At Fresh Therapeutics we provide you with advice about taking medicines when breastfeeding. We subscribe to the Royal Womens’ Hospital Pregnancy and Beastfeeding Medicines Guide. We may be able to suggest alternative ways of helping relieve troublesome symptoms such as using a nasal spray rather than taking a tablet. Always make your doctor and pharmacist aware that you are breastfeeding if you are being prescribed or taking medicines.
We also have more detailed information on medicines and breastfeeding in the Pharmaceuticals Society’s Self Care Fact Card Medicines and breastfeeding available at Fresh Therapeutics Pharmacies.
Remember: always talk to a pharmacist, doctor, or other health professional before taking any medicine when breastfeeding and take the exact dose prescribed.
Acknowledgement: Pharmaceutical Society Self Care Health Column
Fresh Therapeutics has mother and baby services including Baby Weighing Service, Breast Pump Advice, Medicines and Breastfeeding Advice. At both locations, we offer specialised compounding services for babies or children that have difficulty swallowing or tolerating a manufactured medicine. We work with you and your doctor to customise a medicine to meet the individual needs of your child – it may be sugar-free, alcohol-free, preservative free, colour or dye free or simply, easier to take.