What You Need To Know About Antibiotics And Breastfeeding
Can you safely take antibiotics while breastfeeding?
In most cases, antibiotics are safe for breastfeeding parents and their babies.
“Antibiotics are one of the most common medications mothers are prescribed, and all pass in some degree into milk,” explains the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP). At the same time, the AAP adds: “In general, if the antibiotic would be administered directly to a premature infant or a neonate, then it is safe for the mother to take during breastfeeding.”
So what does this mean for you and your breastfeeding baby?
First, it’s important to keep in mind how medications generally work when you’re breastfeeding.
As the Mayo Clinic explains, the majority of drugs that become present in your bloodstream will also be present in your breast milk. However, the amount in your milk is usually lower than the amount in your blood, and most medications “pose no real risk to most infants.”
However, the Mayo Clinic also notes that there are exceptions, and as such, every medication you take — including antibiotics — should be cleared with your baby’s pediatrician.
In addition to the medication itself, there are other factors to keep in mind, including how old your baby is. Exposure to antibiotics will pose a greater risk to premature babies and newborns, as opposed to older babies and toddlers, explains the Mayo Clinic.
And again, if your baby could safely take the antibiotic, it’s likely safe to take it while breastfeeding.
If you’re considering taking an antibiotic that’s not considered safe for your baby, you’ll need to decide how important it is for you to take the medication.
Which antibiotics are safe?
This question is often considered on a case-by-case basis depending on your baby’s age, weight, and overall health — and always in consultation with your baby’s pediatrician and your prescribing provider.
However, the Mayo Clinic lists several antibiotics that are generally considered safe for breastfeeding women, including:
penicillins, including amoxicillin and ampicillin
cephalosporins, such as cephalexin (Keflex)
fluconazole (Diflucan) — this is not an antibiotic but a common antimicrobial used to treat fungal infections
If you’re considering taking an antibiotic that’s not listed above, your best bet is to talk to your baby or child’s pediatrician. Chances are that the antibiotic is safe, or that there’s a safe alternative.
Stomach upset and fussiness in babies
Sometimes moms report that their babies have an upset stomach after they take antibiotics. This may be because antibiotics may deplete the “good” bacteria in your baby’s gut.
Keep in mind that this effect is usually short lived, not harmful, and not a given. Also, keep in mind that breast milk is great for your baby’s gut health, so it’s important to continue breastfeeding.
You can consider giving your baby probiotics to remedy this problem, but it’s important that you consult your baby’s medical provider before doing so.
Sometimes — again, because antibiotics can decrease the number of “good” bacteria in your system that keep other microorganisms in check — you and/or your baby may develop thrush, a fungal infection usually caused by Candida albicans, a fungal yeast.
Overgrowth of Candida albicans can cause very uncomfortable symptoms in both moms and babies. Babies may experience an upset stomach, diaper rash, and white coating on their tongue and mouths. The mother may experience nipple pain (often described as stabbing or like “glass in the nipples”) and red, shiny nipples.
Treatment for thrush usually involves antifungal medication for both moms and babies. But prevention is key. If you’re taking an antibiotic, it’s advised that you take a probiotic to keep your gut bacteria happy and balanced.
Where can you find more information on medications and breastfeeding?
Another resource for you to consult is LactMedTrusted Source, a database sponsored by the National Library of Medicine that lists medications and their possible impact on breastfed babies.
Additionally, you may consider contacting the Infant Risk Center, which provides evidence-based information about breastfeeding and medication, including a hotline to answer your questions.
For further help, consider contacting a lactation consultant, who may be able to counsel you on the pros and cons of taking a particular antibiotic. They may be able to guide you to further resources to help you make your decision.