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A List of Medications That Are Safe While Breast-feeding

author image Amanda Mitchell
Amanda Mitchell began her writing career in 1993 as a writing fellow for her university. She has also written for Student Network Resources and Knowledge Writing. Mitchell has a Bachelor of Science in biology from High Point University and is completing a Master of Science in molecular biology from the University of North Carolina.

The risks of taking medication varies once a mother gives birth and the child is breast-feeding. The doctor must determine if the benefits of the medication outweigh not breast-feeding the child or exposing the infant to the effects of the medication. Drugs that previously may have been safe during pregnancy might be harmful when exposed through breast milk. Many considerations and factors are involved in determining what medications, if any, are safe to consume while breast-feeding.

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How Does Medication Enter Breast Milk?

The entry of medication into human milk is a function of the mother's plasma level. Basically, as the drug interaction rises, so does the amount of the drug in the milk. Other variables include the drug's molecular size, solubility and half life. Medications can also enter breast milk by diffusion and secretion. Medication must move across the alveolar cells found in the mammary tissue to enter the milk. Also, more medications can enter the milk during the first week or two of milk production than when more mature milk is produced later.

Guidelines to Minimize Potential Risk

To minimize the risk of medication to a breast-feeding infant, moms should always follow a few simple guidelines. Not all medications that were safe while pregnant are safe now. Choose medications that are safe for use directly by the infant. Avoid drug therapies and topical therapies when at all possible. Always do your homework and study the medication the doctor is recommending. Ask three main questions: is the drug needed, how will the drug affect the baby, and how will the drug affect your body's ability to make milk.

Medications Commonly Prescribed to New Mothers

New mothers are commonly prescribed the same safe medications. These medications encompass a variety of conditions. Medications safe to take while breast-feeding include antacids, anticoagulants, anticonvulsants, antihistamines, decongestants, diuretics, insulin, muscle relaxants, laxatives, vaccines and vitamins. For some medications, there is a recommended medication, an alternative medication and a medication that should be used with caution. An example is pain medication. The recommended medication would be ibuprofen, acetaminophen or morphine. There is no alternative medication, and the medication that should be used with caution or under a doctor's supervision is naproxen and meperidine. Always consult your doctor for additional information on safe medications or if you have questions.

Medications New Mothers Should Never Use

Along with safe medications commonly prescribed to new mothers, there are also medications that should never be used by a new mother. The use of these medications while breast-feeding can result in permanent injury or death to your infant. These include Cyclosporine, Lithium, any type of radioactive pharmaceutical, Methotrexate, amphetamines, nicotine, marijuana, Mysoline and Parlodel.

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