I have a family friend that got postpartum depression and weaned her baby because she was worried that antidepressants in her milk would hurt her little one. Another friend was afraid to take Tylenol for a headache because she was breastfeeding. When I was nursing my oldest son, my eye doctor decided not to dilate my eyes at a routine exam because we didn’t know if the medication could get into my milk.
“Can I take this when I’m breastfeeding?” is a really common question that, in the past, we mostly had to answer by guessing.
In general, it is better for a baby to be exposed to a little bit of medication through mother’s milk than to be weaned. Pharmacologist, Thomas W. Hale, talks about this general situation in his article in Breastfeeding Abstracts.
Of course knowing the general situation doesn’t help when you want to know about a particular medication for a particular mother and baby. Would it have been fine for my depressed friend to keep breastfeeding? Could my other friend have treated her headache? Could I have gone ahead with my eye exam? Now we can get answers for many medications. The U.S. National Library of Medicine has an on-line data base of information on medications and mothers’ milk: LactMed. Families and health care professionals can search this free data base at http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/htmlgen?LACT . Even if you can’t find a particular medication in this data base, there are still resources to explore so contact a lactation consultant or doctor/pharmacist that is up-to-date on breastfeeding research.