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Safe for Baby

June 01, 1998

Nursing moms, take note: Whatever medicines you're taking get passed along to your child. Here are some points to consider.

Most medications taken in normal doses are safe for the breast-feeding mother. But even safe drugs will be passed along in your breast milk and affect your baby to some degree. For example:

* Antibiotics can cause diarrhea.

* Antihistamines can lead to irritability.

* Prescription pain drugs and sedatives can cause drowsiness.

Usually, the benefits of breast-feeding outweigh these minor side effects in the infant. However, a nursing mother taking any type of medication should observe her baby and report any unusual behavior to her health-care provider.

Other medications taken by mom are definitely too toxic for baby. For example, breast-feeding should not continue if a mother is using the following:

* Chemotherapy drugs.

* Lithium.

* Certain drugs that suppress the immune system.

* Radioactive compounds that are taken for scans or other diagnostic studies.

* Illegal or recreational drugs.

Other drugs, such as antidepressants, may also be of concern.

General guidelines to follow when breast-feeding:

* Always check with your health-care professional before taking any medication.

* Consult your pharmacist, who can also provide information about the drugs you are using.

* Take drugs only when absolutely necessary.

* Avoid multi-ingredient cold medications that usually contain more ingredients than you need to treat minor cold symptoms.

* Ask your health-care professional to substitute a safer drug if a certain drug poses a risk.

* Avoid breast-feeding, if possible, during those times of the day when greater amounts of medication are present in your breast milk. (Medications usually reach their highest level in milk one to three hours after being taken; long-acting medications tend to remain in breast milk longer.)

* Take medications, if possible, before your baby's longest sleep period.

Source: Institute of Pediatric Nutrition

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