Breastfeeding, Medications, and Milk Production

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For breastfeeding mothers, it's important to be sure that the medications you take won't harm your baby or affect your ability to produce milk, while also making sure mom is getting necessary treatment for any illness or symptoms. More and more is being discovered every day about what passes through breast milk while nursing, so is sure that any materials you read or advice you get is from up-to-date, credible and well-informed sources.

One of the best sources for information on how medications can affect breast milk is a board-certified lactation consultant. Lactation consultants specialize in human milk production, and more than likely will be able to give you specific information regarding various medications and herbal or holistic supplements, which may also have an impact on your milk supply. You should also speak with your family doctor or obstetrician.

Common Medications That May Affect Breast Milk Supply

Some women's milk supply can be inhibited by certain medications more than others. You really can't know for certain how a medication will affect you. If you are experiencing issues with milk supply or if you are even mildly concerned about it, then you may want to be more cautious about which medications you take.

Some fairly common drugs which may cause a drop in supply are birth control pills which contain estrogen and pseudoephedrine, a decongestant used to treat nasal, sinus, and eustachian tube congestion. Pseudoephedrine can be found as a single ingredient or in combination with other drugs like antihistamines, guaifenesin, dextromethorphan, paracetamol (acetaminophen), and/or NSAIDs (e.g., aspirin, ibuprofen, etc.).

"Supply Friendly" Breastfeeding Medications and Alternatives

There are progestin birth control pills which are an option for breastfeeding moms who want or need to take oral birth control. If you are concerned about your supply, speak with your doctor about supply friendly medications or natural remedies for treating colds and congestion.

With natural and holistic remedies, it can be difficult to know which are safe during pregnancy and lactation, since they are not regulated or approved by the Federal Drug Administration. Just because something is labeled as "natural" does not mean it doesn't have side effects.

If you aren't sure how a natural remedy will affect you, it's imperative to discuss with a medical professional before beginning any new course of treatment 

Antidepressants and Breastfeeding

There is a fair amount of research suggesting that it may be better for women who take antidepressants to continue taking them during pregnancy and breastfeeding. Women with untreated depression may have a harder time producing breast milk, research has found, and the benefits of breastfeeding outweigh the risks of some antidepressants. If you are taking antidepressants, ideally you should discuss your treatment options with your mental health care provider and your obstetrician before becoming pregnant. 

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Article Sources

  • Antidepressant Medication Use during Breastfeeding, National Institutes of Health
  • Medications and Mothers' Milk (2004 edition) by Thomas Hale, Ph.D
  • Table 6: Maternal Medication Usually Compatible With Breast-Feeding, from the AAP Policy Statement The Transfer of Drugs and Other Chemicals Into Human Milk, revised September 2001.