We encourage all mothers to breastfeed their babies.
In the past there were many rules about who should and should not breastfeed depending on mother’s health habits, medications, and even diet.
In the old days they even thought women passed personality traits to baby in the milk.
We now know that breastmilk is the best for almost every mother and baby.
However, if you use prescription medication, tobacco products, marijuana or alcohol you probably are a concerned about if this is safe for your baby.
See below for a general discussion, and some good links for more in depth answers to your questions. It’s a good idea to discuss these concerns with your family’s medical provider as well if you feel comfortable doing so.
Most medications are relatively safe to use while breastfeeding.
Please talk with your doctor, pharmacist or lactation consultant about your prescription medications so they can verify there are no interactions to worry about. They will let you know whether or not it is safe to breastfeed.
If you are unsure about your medications click here for more information from MotherToBaby regarding your specific medication.
Click here to check out LactMed, another great site used by doctors and lactation nurses for more in-depth information.
Concerns About Smoking
It is best if you quit smoking – for your health and your baby’s health.
Smoking increases your baby’s risk of developing respiratory problems and can decrease your milk supply. Breakdown products from nicotine will pass to your baby through breastmilk.
Because breastmilk is so valuable to infants, it is still ok to breastfeed.
Click here for information specific to smoking and breastfeeding.
Concerns About Alcohol
Alcohol does pass into breastmilk. Avoid drinking – especially in moderate to large amounts at this can be harmful to your baby and affect their motor development.
An occasional, small drink is ok but if you drink, DO NOT breastfeed 2-3 hours afterwards.
Concerns About Marijuana
It is best not to use marijuana while breastfeeding. We know that THC (the active ingredient in marijuana) transfers into breastmilk and there are concerns that it affects infant development.
We recommend that breastfeeding mothers refrain from using marijuana.
You may still choose to breastfeed.
It is not safe to be using other illicit drugs (cocaine, heroin, etc.) while breastfeeding. Tremors, seizures and vomiting are just some of the reported effects in infants.
Here are the facts:
THC is the active chemical in marijuana; it can be smoked or eaten. When a pregnant mother uses THC, it goes into the baby’s body and brain.
In your placenta and baby’s brain there are THC receptors – places that the THC attaches. This could affect the way your placenta nourishes your baby. Also, during pregnancy a baby’s brain is growing very fast and we think THC changes the way your baby’s brain develops.
Mothers who use THC during pregnancy run a higher risk of having a stillborn baby, a premature baby, or a baby who is smaller than normal.
Children who are exposed to THC during pregnancy may have more problems in school and may have poor attention. We do not know if there is a safe time to use THC during pregnancy.
When a mother uses THC, it gets into her milk. This THC will get into the baby’s body and brain. There is concern that this may affect the rapidly growing baby brain. Using THC may also affect the way a mother cares for her baby.
- Don’t use THC during your pregnancy.
- Keep your baby away from marijuana smoke (they can breathe it in).
- Do not use THC when you are breastfeeding.
- Don’t stop breastfeeding (it is so important for the health of your baby!).
- If you use THC or expose your baby to an environment where others are using THC, be sure that someone else is available to take care of your baby.
Click here for information specific to marijuana use and breastfeeding.
The American Academy of Pediatrics. (2017). The Breastfeeding-Friendly Pediatric Office Practice.
The American College of Obstetricians and Gynecologists. (2016). Labor, Delivery, and Postpartum Care: Breastfeeding Your Baby [Pamphlet]. Washington, DC.
U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, Office on Women’s Health. (2011). Your Guide to Breastfeeding. [Brochure]. Washington, DC.