Occasionally, physicians are asked whether or not a medication is safe to take while the mother is breastfeeding. The issue at hand is usually not medication safety for the mother but rather is it safe for the breastfeeding child. Unfortunately, the mother is often told not to breastfeed her child while taking a medication. The basis of this recommendation is usually due to uncertainty rather than on known cases of infant morbidity.
Medications that may not be safe for the fetus of a pregnant mother may be quite compatible with breastfeeding. The routes of exposure for the baby are quite different. So, the list of medications that may pose teratogenic risk to the fetus are not synonymous to the lists of medication that may pose risk to the breastfeeding neonate.
One reliable online resource is through the National Library of Medicine’s LactMed site, http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/htmlgen?LACT. This is a searchable database for medications and provides information that assists in making a risk assessment. It also provides information on known effects on lactation and lists the corresponding American Academy of Pediatrics categorization.
Question prepared by: Saralyn R. Williams, M.D. Medical Toxicologist
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Donna Seger, M.D.
Tennessee Poison Center
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