Drugs and Lactation: Information You Can Trust!

source: nih.gov

source: nih.gov

Public Health Community Advisory – The websites of state breastfeeding coalitions are excellent sources of information and resources that women can trust. For example, the Nebraska Breastfeeding Coalition (http://nebreastfeeding.org/) includes information and resources on topics such as:

    • Learn to Breastfeed

    • Common Concerns

    • Family and Partner Support

    • Breastfeeding with Confidence

    • Return to Work and Continue Breastfeeding

    • Pumping and Storage

However, state breastfeeding coalition websites don’t include information on a nursing mother’s safe use of over-the-counter (OTC) medications or prescription medications. A mother may wonder whether a medication is safe for her baby, or whether it could harm the baby by transmission through the breast milk. While a woman is always advised to check with a medical professional, a trusted Internet resource is available any time of the day or night.

The US National Library of Medicine hosts a free online resource for mothers who choose to breastfeed their babies and for those who guide them in their effort to do so safely. Located under the TOXNET Toxicology Data Network, “LactMed” is a Drugs and Lactation Database.  LactMed may be searched at http://toxnet.nlm.nih.gov/cgi-bin/sis/htmlgen?LACT. It is a “peer-reviewed and fully referenced database of drugs to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed. Among the data included are maternal and infant levels of drugs, possible effects on breastfed infants and on lactation, and alternate drugs to consider.” LactMed is geared to both the health care practitioner and the nursing mother, and contains over 450 drug records.

To conduct a substance search, the consumer may choose to enter one of three terms into the search box: either the name of the drug (commercial trade name or generic name), or the chemical name, or the chemical abstract services (CAS) registry number. Next, a list is provided of variations of that substance name. For example, the trade name of Tylenol is listed as Acetaminophen. Once the consumer selects a substance from the list, a Table of Contents is provided on the left-hand side of the screen for easy navigation to the section of interest.

The information for each substance in the database includes such things as drug levels in maternal breast milk, drug levels in the nursing infant’s blood, potential effects of the drug on breastfeeding infants and on lactation itself, the American Academy of Pediatrics category indicating the level of compatibility of the drug with breastfeeding, and alternate drugs to consider. References are included, as is nomenclature information, such as the drug’s CAS registry number and its broad drug class. In addition to the search option, other support pages are available, such as a glossary, fact sheets, and additional breastfeeding links.

Important information that is both trustworthy and available at the time of need is a very welcome addition to any family!

This article was written by Denise H. Britigan, PhD, assistant professor in the UNMC COPH Department of Health Promotion, Social and Behavioral Health.