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How to Safely Take Medication While Breastfeeding.
If you take medication while breastfeeding, doing so safely is crucial for the health of your baby, as some can adversely affect the health of your baby and milk supply.
Always consult your doctor in advance to determine if taking any medication, including over the counter medication and dietary supplements, is necessary and safe for the baby.
If there’s an alternative treatment or a medication that has a lower potential for hurting your baby, opt to take that, instead.
If you do have to take your medication, ensure that it is safe for your baby, and always follow prescription directions or your doctor’s instructions.
Using Medications With Care
Talk to your doctor before giving birth.
Your doctor should know before you give birth if you’ve been taking medications – both over-the-counter and prescription medications.
Communicate clearly and directly about medications you are or have been taking recently.
Your doctor will be able to let you know if the drug is safe, unsafe, or probably safe, and advise you how to proceed accordingly.
For instance, if you’ve been taking medication before giving birth, say to your doctor, “I have been taking medication.”
Your doctor will then ask you what medication you’ve been taking.
Provide your doctor with an honest reply.
Most medications are safe to take while breastfeeding.
For instance, most antibiotics, diabetes medications, acid-reflux medications, and sleep aids are generally safe.
Identify if you need medication.
If you have pain following your birth, you might need to use medication to manage it.
Certain medical procedures related to your birth – such as C-sections, cuts or tears in the vaginal area, or related surgeries – could necessitate pain medications.
In these cases, your doctor will prescribe pain medication in doses that you can take safely while breastfeeding.
If you’re taking medication unrelated to pain or surgery caused by the birthing process, ask your doctor if it’s safe to take.
For instance, you might show your doctor the medication bottle and ask, “Is this medication safe to take?”
Ask your doctor if there are alternatives to taking medication that you might be able to explore.
For instance, you might ask, “Are there alternatives to this medication that would achieve similar results?”
Take medication properly.
Always take medication in the amount prescribed.
For instance, if your medication recommends taking two pills twice each day, do not take three pills twice each day.
Additionally, take medication as frequently as prescribed.
For instance, if the medicine you’ve been prescribed directs you to take it twice each day, do not take it three times each day.
Doing so would not be in accordance with the medicine’s directions.
Using medicine in a way that is not prescribed could be unsafe for both you and your new baby.
Breastfeed before taking your medication.
The medication levels in your body – and, therefore, in your breast milk – will typically be at their lowest right before you consume another dose.
Therefore, the best time to breastfeed your baby is right before taking your medication.
While this is true in most cases, it is not true in every case.
Always discuss the timing of your feedings relative to your medications with your doctor.
Pay attention to warnings.
Many medications cannot be safely taken with other medicines, even if they are over-the-counter medicines like Tylenol or Motrin.
Read the warning labels on your medication carefully when breastfeeding.
Taking Extra Caution
Take the child’s health and age into account.
Premature babies may be more susceptible to the negative side effects that may accompany a particular medication.
Newborns and babies with other health problems are also at elevated risk for reacting badly to medication in breast milk.
Older, healthier children whose immune systems and kidney functions are more robust are more likely to withstand the presence of a small amount of harmless medication in the breast milk.
If your doctor suspects that your child’s age or health place them at an elevated risk of absorbing medication through breast milk, they will prescribe an alternative to medication.
Know when to contact your doctor.
There are several occasions in which you should contact your doctor.
If the medication you’re taking is not alleviating the severity or frequency of your symptoms, you should contact your doctor.
For instance, if you’re on pain medication and your pain gets worse even while taking your medication, your doctor should know.
Another case in which you should contact your doctor is when your symptoms actually get worse – that is, they increase in severity or frequency.
Use a breast pump if necessary.
If your doctor believes that your breast milk contains medication in concentrations that make it unsuitable for your baby, or if you are taking a medication that makes your milk unfit for the baby’s consumption, you should use a breast pump to remove the milk you’re producing.
Once you’ve pumped the milk from the breasts, dispose of it safely by pouring it down the drain.
This way, you can keep milk production up for when you stop taking a short-term prescription.
Feed your baby a high-quality formula mixture during periods when you’re taking medication and cannot provide your baby with breast milk.
If you have concerns about the safety of a medication on the health of your baby, express your milk into bottles, label them with the date and time pumped, and refrigerate until you have confirmed whether or not it is safe.
If it is not safe to use, dispose of it.
Breast pumps are also useful for pumping “good” milk – that is, milk that is uncontaminated by the presence of medications – before you begin a medication regimen.
Pump enough milk for several days into bottles and label them with the date and time. Feed your baby this milk while you’re taking the medication.
There are two main varieties of breast pumps – manual and electric.
Both are safe and easy to use. Follow
manufacturer’s directions when using your breast pump.
Watching for Signs of Danger
Monitor your baby’s sleeping schedule.
If your baby is much sleepier than usual or tends to sleep through occasions like feeding or other times when it is normally awake, it might be getting too much medication through your breast milk.
Most babies should sleep most of the day and night (about eight to nine hours each day and eight hours each night), but will not sleep for more than two or three hours straight at a time.
Babies are all unique, however, and some won’t sleep more than a few hours daily.
Pay attention to your baby’s feeding habits
If your baby suddenly stops being able to suckle as well as it used to, it might be suffering side effects from your medication.
Similarly, if your baby seems uninterested in suckling at times when it normally would be, you should contact your doctor.
For instance, if your baby was ready to breastfeed immediately after it woke up for several weeks in a row, then suddenly it loses interest in breastfeeding as soon as it wakes, you should contact your doctor.
Track your baby’s bowel movements.
Constipation could be a sign that your baby’s digestive tract is being affected by medication in your breast milk.
In other words, if your baby is not defecating regularly, you should contact your doctor and determine if you need to adjust your feeding habits or medication dosages.
Babies who have diarrhea might also be suffering from medication-related side-effects.
During the baby’s first few days, it will poop a dark-colored goo called meconium.
A few days later the stool will become yellow, tan, or yellow-green in color.
After the first few days, the baby will have two to five bowel movements every 24 hours.
After six weeks, the frequency of a baby’s bowel movements becomes harder to predict.
Your baby might poop once every day or two, or it might continue to poop up to five times daily.
Put the bottles in the solution.
Submerge the bottles and nipples in the solution, checking to make sure each bottle fills up with solution.
Most buckets will have a device at the top to help keep everything underwater.
Keep an eye on your baby’s behavior.
Baby behavior might change in response to medication received through breast milk.
If your baby becomes fussy, irritable, or exhibits other behavioral abnormalities, contact your doctor.
For instance, if your baby is normally relaxed and happy after breastfeeding, but – after you begin a new regimen of medication – starts crying loudly in an especially shrill and unpleasant way, its behavior may be affected by medication it absorbed through breast milk.
Your baby might also become exceptionally tired after absorbing medication through breast milk.
For instance, if your baby normally likes to crawl about and babble happily after consuming breast milk, but after you begin taking medication it immediately falls asleep, this changed behavior could be due to increased levels of medication in your breast milk.