Medicines and drugs that are unsafe for breastfeeding

Some medicines can be taken by a nursing mother if she stops breastfeeding for a few days or weeks. She can pump her milk and discard it during this time to keep up her supply, while the baby drinks previously frozen milk or formula. Radioactive drugs used for some diagnostic tests like Gallium-69, Iodine-125, Iodine-131, or Technetium-99m can be taken if the woman stops nursing temporarily.

During breastfeeding, the following prescription drugs should not be taken, so as to avoid doing baby harm:

  • Bromocriptine (Parlodel): A drug for Parkinson’s disease, it also decreases a woman’s milk supply.
  • Most Chemotherapy Drugs for Cancer: Since they kill cells in the mother’s body, they may harm the baby as well.

  • Ergotamine (for migraine headaches): Causes vomiting, diarrhea, convulsions in infants.

  • Lithium (for manic-depressive illness): Excreted in human milk.

  • Methotrexate (for arthritis): Can suppress the baby’s immune system.

  • Tobacco Smoke: Nursing mothers should avoid smoking. Nicotine can cause vomiting, diarrhea and restlessness for the baby, as well as decreased milk production for the mother. Maternal smoking or passive smoke may increase the risk of sudden infant death syndrome and may increase respiratory and ear infections.
  • Drugs of Abuse: Some drugs, such as cocaine and PCP, can intoxicate the baby. Others, such as amphetamines, heroin and marijuana, can cause a variety of symptoms, including irritability, poor sleeping patterns, tremors, and vomiting. Babies become addicted to these drugs.
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