Is It Safe To Take Antibiotics While Breastfeeding?

Antibiotics While Breastfeeding

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Are you a first-time mom who is breastfeeding her little one? Do you worry that taking antibiotics while your baby is still breastfeeding can hurt not just you, but your baby as well? Are you unsure about the safety of taking antibiotics while breastfeeding?

If these questions have you worried, you might want to read our post below. As a breastfeeding mother, it is obvious that you’ll be highly selective about anything that you eat and drink, including medicines. So, if you are looking for answers regarding the safety of taking antibiotics while nursing your baby, scroll down and get them here.

Is It Safe To Take Antibiotics While Breastfeeding?

The practice of treating different conditions with an antibiotic has undergone many changes. Doctors are increasingly wary of the over-exposure to antibiotics, which causes a lack of resistance to germs and disease-causing agents. Unless it is required, your doctor will not prescribe you an antibiotic, especially when you are a breastfeeding, mother.

While you are breastfeeding, your health is extremely important, as any infection that you get may pose a health risk to your baby. Most antibiotics that doctors prescribe breastfeeding mothers are small doses, and your doctor will always take into account that you are feeding your baby. While it is safe to have some antibiotics even when you are breastfeeding, there can be instances when taking certain antibiotics may induce side effects for you or your little one (1).

While you are taking antibiotics while breastfeeding stage, there is a definite chance of the medication passing onto your infant through your breast milk. In most cases, the dosage will be too small to affect your baby. To make sure that your doctor gives you an antibiotic as a last resource, tell her that you are a breastfeeding mom (2).

Will All The Antibiotics Pass Into Your Breast Milk?

Almost any medicine that you take will be present in your bloodstream, and will also transfer to your breast milk to some level. The exact amount of medication that will pass into your breast milk will depend on the dosage of the medication that you are taking and how often you take it. In most cases, the medications that you take will be present in your breast milk in small quantities, which will not pose a threat to your baby during breastfeeding. However, there are certain drugs that can become highly concentrated once they come in contact with your breast milk. It is extremely important that your doctor conducts some tests to check your suitability to the antibiotic before she prescribes it.

[ Read: Safe Medicines While Breastfeeding ]

Will Your Baby’s Age Change The Effect Antibiotics May Have?

While it is true that the amount of dosage your doctor will prescribe you for your antibiotic course is the most crucial bit, but your baby’s age and overall health also plays a crucial role. Being exposed to the medication in your breast milk can have a different effect on your baby depending on age and health. Here are a few pointers that may help you judge the effect of your antibiotic intake on your baby while you are nursing him:

  1. If your baby was born prematurely and is just a few weeks old, or has a medical issue related to the kidneys, the medication present in your breast milk will have a bigger impact.
  1. The amount of residual medication that is present in your breast milk will have a comparatively lesser impact on your baby after the age of six months. It will only hold true if your baby is healthy and has no ongoing medical condition. At this age, your baby’s body will be able to metabolize the drugs more effectively and hence the side effects that could otherwise have been a concern will be far less.
  1. If you continue to breastfeed your baby after your baby has turned one-year-old, the chances are that the amount of milk your body produces is significantly less. It means that your breast milk will hold a very small amount of medicine residue and a very insignificant amount of the same can pass on to your baby while feeding.
  1. As with the case of breastfeeding after your baby turns one, if you have to take antibiotics during the first three to four days after giving birth, it will also reduce the risk. Once you have given birth to your baby, it takes about three to four days for your body to start producing a good amount of breast milk. It means that even if you are required to be on medication and have started to breastfeed your baby, the amount of residual medicine that may be passed on through your milk will be very nominal (3).

[ Read: Is It Safe To Take Antidepressants While Breastfeeding ]

Should You Stop Breastfeeding While Taking Antibiotics?

Most medicines are considered to be safe while you are breastfeeding, but it is important to consult your doctor before you take anything. Your doctor will check yours and the baby’s health and will also check the effect of the suggested medication on your breast milk and your baby.

Here are a few pointers that will help you determine whether you should continue breastfeeding while on antibiotics or whether you should talk to your doctor about an alternate solution:

  • If you have a chronic disease, your doctor may need to put you on a dose of antibiotics. In such a situation, taking an antibiotic will be important, as you first have to come out of your chronic condition to make sure that both you and your baby are healthy. You may not directly pass on your condition to your baby through your breast milk, but in some cases, being nearby with your baby could also pass it on. In such a situation, taking an antibiotic course will pose lesser health risks than being affected with the condition.
  • In case you have to take an antibiotic that could lead to higher levels of medical residue in your breast milk, your doctor will try to first put you on a medication that may have a lower effect, just to see if it is enough to treat you completely. As an alternative, your doctor may suggest you to stop breastfeeding your baby till the course continues if the lower dosage does not work.
  • In some cases, your doctor will give you a time frame that will be the best time to feed your baby without any risk of adverse health issues. In some cases, your doctor will suggest that you take the medication right after you have breast-fed your baby, so that you get at least a two to four hour window before you have to breastfeed your baby again.
  • Even though it is very rare, your health care provider may suggest that you stop breastfeeding your baby for a few weeks at a stretch or even permanently. Your doctor will give you this advice in case you are suffering from a chronic disease that cannot be treated in a span of just a few weeks. Do not give up hope yet if your doctor asks you to stop breastfeeding for now.
  • If you have been asked to give up on breastfeeding your baby, you can still get back to it after a few weeks. In the meanwhile, try and use a breast pump to pump out the milk and then discard it, as it will help to maintain a constant flow of breast milk. Once you are off your medication, and your doctor gives you the go-ahead, you can start breastfeeding your baby in the normal way again, as the flow of your breastmilk will not be hampered with the temporary break.
  • In some rare case, your doctor will ask you to refrain from breastfeeding your baby. If it happens, speak to your doctor about a good and safe alternative and check on what types of baby milk formulas you can give your baby (4).

The Health Effects Of Antibiotics On Your Breastfeeding Baby:

While it is mostly safe to take some amount of antibiotics during breastfeeding, it can cause some side effects in your baby. Here are a few common side effects you may notice in your little one as a result of the residual medication in your breast milk:

  • Your baby can be affected with sudden loose motions and can even suffer from a bout of diarrhea.
  • In some cases, your baby may suffer from discomfort or pain in the tummy and, as a result, be cranky and cry more.
  • If your baby suffers from colic, you may notice an increase in your baby’s discomfort and colic symptoms that could be a side effect of the antibiotics you are taking (5).

In most cases, the above symptoms are not serious enough and will go away without any medical intervention. In case, your baby continues to be in discomfort or if you feel it has an effect on your baby’s breastfeeding or sleeping schedule, make sure to speak to your health care provider about it.

[ Read: Is It Safe To Take Painkillers While Breastfeeding ]

What Antibiotics Can You Safely Take While You Are Still Breastfeeding And What To Avoid?

Here is a list of the antibiotics that are considered to be safe to use while you are breastfeeding, but make sure you still discuss the potential effects first with your doctor:

The following are the safe antibiotics while breastfeeding:

  1. Amoxycillin, Amoxil
  2. Amoxycillin clavulanate
  3. Antitubercular drugs
  4. Cephalosporins
  5. Macrolides
  6. Trimethoprim-sulphamethoxazole (6)

The following antibiotics should be taken with extra caution while you are breastfeeding, as their effects on babies are not recorded:

  1. Chloramphenicol
  2. Clindamycin
  3. Dapsone
  4. Mandelic acid
  5. Metronidazole (low dose)
  6. Nalidixic acid
  7. Nitrofurantoin
  8. Penicillins
  9. Tetracyclines

The following antibiotics should be avoided and are not considered to be taken while you are breastfeeding:

  1. Metronidazole (single high dose)
  2. Quinolones

[ Read: Benefits Of Paxil While Breastfeeding ]

Antiviral:

Various antiviral antibiotics that are considered to be safe while breastfeeding are:

  1. Acyclovir
  2. Amantadine
  3. Valacyclovir

The effects of the following antiviral antibiotics while breastfeeding are not known yet:

  1. Antiretrovirals
  2. Famciclovir
  3. Foscarnet
  4. Ganciclovir

Antifungal:

Ketoconazole is the only one antifungal antibiotic safe while breastfeeding.

The effect of the following antifungal antibiotics while breastfeeding is not recorded:

  1. Amphotericin
  2. Fluconazole
  3. Flucytosine
  4. Itraconazole

Antimalarial:

Various Antimalarial antibiotics that are considered to be safe while breastfeeding are:

  1. Chloroquine
  2. Hydroxychloroquine
  3. Quinine
  4. The effect of the following antimalarial antibiotics while breastfeeding is not recorded:
  5. Mefloquine
  6. Pentamidine
  7. Proguanil
  8. Primaquine
  9. Pyrimethamine.

[ Read: Side Effects Of Hydrocodone While Breastfeeding ]

Antihelminthic:

The effects of the following antihelminthic antibiotics while breastfeeding are not recorded:

  1. Mebendazole
  2. Pyrantel pamoate
  3. Praziquantel
  4. Quinacrine antihelminth
  5. Thiabendazole
  6. Piperazine

What Should You Watch Out For While Taking Antibiotics While Nursing?

If you are put on an antibiotic course while you are still breastfeeding, here are a few symptoms you should watch out for in your baby:

  • Check if your baby looks drowsy or is sleeping longer than he does otherwise.
  • In some cases, taking a certain type of antibiotic can cause a reduction in your breast milk. If your breast milk supply goes down, your baby will be left hungry and may cry or make sucking motions (7).

[ Read: Sleeping Pills While Breastfeeding ]

Questions To Ask Your Doctor Before Taking Antibiotics While Breastfeeding:

While you are visiting your doctor for a checkup, it is important to ask the following questions before you are on an antibiotic course:

  • Tell your doctor that you are breastfeeding your baby.
  • Tell your doctor about your baby’s age and also mention any additional details, such as if your baby was born prematurely or if your baby suffers from any congenital medical conditions.
  • Make sure to inform your doctor in case your baby is suffering from any specific health condition at the moment. Also, if your baby is taking any specific medications at this time, make sure to tell the doctor about it and show him earlier prescriptions to avoid any confusion.
  • Ask your doctor what is the best time to have the antibiotic so that it has the least amount of effect on your baby during feeding.
  • Check with your doctor about any possible symptoms that your baby may show in case there is any effect of the antibiotics. Ask when it is important to get your baby medical care for the same.
  • Ask your doctor about all possible alternatives that you can try out before going for the antibiotics. Also, ask for any indication if you can stop taking the medicine for the time being once some initial symptoms are taken care of.

Some Safe Home Remedies And Tips While You Are Breastfeeding:

While not all conditions can be treated at home, there are certain health issues for which you can home remedies that will be safe and will not cause any side effects to the baby. Try the following to take care of your various health issues but do make sure you speak to your health care provider before using them:

1. A Home Remedy To Take Care Of Dehydration:

It is common to get dehydrated while you are breastfeeding, especially if you also have any other health condition such as diarrhea.

You Will Need:

  • ½ a tsp of salt
  • 1 tsp of baking soda
  • 8 tsp of sugar
  • 8 ounces of orange juice
  • Water

How To:

  1. Add all the ingredients in a container or jug and add enough water to dilute it to about a liter.
  1. Keep sipping on it through the day till your body gets back to its normal routine and dehydration is absent.

[ Read: Signs Of Dehydration While Breastfeeding ]

2. A Few Tips To Help Reduce Migraine:

A migraine is another painful condition that can cause much discomfort and may also interfere with your breastfeeding routine. Here is how you can try and prevent the same and reduce the symptoms if you get a migraine attack while you are breastfeeding:

  • A migraine induced headache is often triggered by one or more reasons. In most cases, before you get a migraine attack, you will almost always experience a few warning signs. Some common symptoms that can point towards an oncoming migraine headache are fatigue, sensitivity to light, dizziness, a lack of appetite or a decrease in appetite, irritability and more. Spot the symptoms and take the necessary precaution before the triggers turn into a full-blown migraine attack.
  • Keep a journal and jot down the time of day when the migraine triggers start, when the pain starts to get worse or what possibly causes the pain. Similarly, also jot down when your migraine attacks seem to subside and what makes it a little better. Keeping the journal will help you keep a track of anything that is causing you a migraine or is making it worse. Once you know the same, you will be able to prevent and reduce the symptoms.
  • Take adequate rest and try going to sleep if you are at home and can feel a headache.

[ Read: Effective Medications To Cure Migraine During Breastfeeding ]

3. Home Remedies And Tips To Soothe A Sore Throat And Cold:

While you cannot always prevent the onset of a cold and the resulting sore throat, you can always try a few home remedies that will help reduce the symptoms.

  1. Sip on a glass of warm water after each half an hour or so to help soothe your sore throat. You can also make it a rule to sip on some warm water just before and after each feeding session. Make sure you do not drink the water while you are holding your baby or do not keep warm water at such a spot that is near your baby and may lead to an injury in case of a spill.
  1. You can also drink chicken broth to ease your cold and take care of the scratchy or sore throat feeling. Drinking warm tea will also soothe your cold, and you can make a cup of ginger tea to help take care of the cold and to clear any congestion. If you are planning to sip on any green tea, make sure to ask your doctor about which ones you can safely have while you are breastfeeding.

[ Read: Symptoms Of Sore Throat While Breastfeeding ]

  1. While you are breastfeeding, it is possible that you might pass on your cold to your baby. To prevent the chances of the same, make sure you follow good hygiene practices. Wash your hands before feeding your baby and every time after your sneeze or have to blow your nose. Avoid touching your face or any other surface with your dirty hands. Keep a pack of disposable paper towels where you can easily grab them when you have to sneeze or blow your nose.
  1. Always cover your mouth while sneezing or coughing so that the germ particles do not contaminate the air or cause infection in your baby.

You may be worried that while you have a cold, it can pass on to your baby through breastfeeding. There is no cause for you to be concerned. Your breast milk is filled with antibodies that will give your baby the initial protection from getting affected by the cold that you have.

While you are breastfeeding, it is important to make sure that whatever you ingest, including medication, is safe for both you and your baby. Always speak to your doctor about possible alternatives and understand how it may affect your baby before you take the same.

While some of the antibiotics that we have mentioned above are safe while you are breastfeeding, there are other medications that can lead to nasty side effects and many problems. So, consult your doctor and make sure that what you are taking is safe for you and your little angel. You don’t want to suffer from side effects, let alone pass them onto your baby. Breastfeeding is an important bonding time for you and your baby. Try using natural solutions wherever possible.

Did you need to take antibiotics while breastfeeding your baby? What was your doctor’s opinion? Did you continue feeding your baby safely or did you have to stop? Do share your experiences here with other moms here. Leave a comment in the section below. We would love to hear from you.

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  • Sunitha

    My doctor prescribed me ibuprofen 500 mg after my c section and said it was ok to take while breast feeding.