Do I need to wean to take medications?

Women are often told they need to stop breastfeeding because of medical testing or a medication. Or told that they cannot receive treatment until the child is weaned. The good news is that most medications (even many antidepressants and meds for ADHD) are compatible with breastfeeding, and for those few medications that are a safety issue there are usually acceptable substitutions.  If you do need to take a medication, there are reliable resources to help you make the decision for if it is safe to continue breastfeeding

According to Thomas Hale, RPh, PhD (Medications and Mothers’ Milk 2014, p. 7-12): “It is generally accepted that all medications transfer into human milk to some degree, although it is almost always quite low. Only rarely does the amount transferred into milk produce clinically relevant doses in the infant… Most importantly, it is seldom required that a breastfeeding mother discontinue breastfeeding just to take a medication. It is simply not acceptable for the clinician to stop lactation merely because of heightened anxiety or ignorance on their part. The risks of formula feeding are significant and should not be trivialized. Few drugs have documented side effects in breastfed infants, and we know most of these.”

When you are taking medications and breastfeeding, the age of the baby, the dose of the medication, whether the medication is immediate or extended release, etc are all considerations for the timing of when to take the medication. Always double check your particular medication for drug interactions (for example: if you’re on a thyroid medication you need to avoid fenugreek because it can cause a drug interaction. Fenugreek is one of the most common herbal supplements used in “milk boosting” products). If you’re concerned about the medication you’re being prescribed or are being told you need to pump and dump or wean, please consult with an IBCLC to confirm.