Will I be able to breastfeed if I'm on medication?

Most medicines can be taken while you’re breastfeeding, but it’s always best to talk to your midwife or doctor to make sure.

Breastfeeding is good for you and your baby. Talk to your midwife, mental health specialist or GP if you want to breastfeed and are taking medications for your mental health.

They will talk to you about medications that you could take. Most medicines can be taken while you’re breastfeeding without harming your baby. Small amounts of any drug you take may pass through your breastmilk, but generally it is low.

There are a few medications that may affect your baby. In this case, your healthcare professional will talk to you about:

  • what the risks are to your baby for the type of medication you need
  • the risks and benefits of starting, stopping, carrying on with or changing your medication
  • what your other treatment options  are (for example, ‘talking treatments’ (psychological therapies).

“I have always struggled with my mental health and take medication for this. I decided to see my GP before we started trying for a baby to discuss my concerns. We decided that given my long history with mental health problems, it would be safest for me to stay on my medication during pregnancy and while breastfeeding.”

Rhiannon

If you are breastfeeding and taking medication for a mental health problem, your baby should be checked regularly for any side effects.

There are some medications that aren’t suitable for breastfeeding, such as lithium, but you may need them to stay well. In this case, your healthcare professional should give you more support and information about formula feeding your baby.

There may be other reasons why breastfeeding is not for you. For example, if you’re not having any sleep because you’re up feeding the baby this can impact your mental health. Some women decide to bottle feed their baby so their partner can do the night feeds while they catch up on sleep. There’s no need to feel guilty if you decide not to breastfeed. Your baby needs you to be well.

Read more about specific mental health conditions

Sources

NICE (2013) Antenatal and postnatal mental health: clinical management and service guidance National Institute for Health and Care Excellence

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Last reviewed on October 18th, 2018. Next review date October 18th, 2021.

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