Sometimes it is necessary for the mother to take drugs during breastfeeding because of a medical condition. There is a wide range of medicines that are considered safe or likely to be safe during breastfeeding. But still some medicines are highly unsafe to be taken while you are lactating. All medicines are transferred to the breast milk and may pose a risk to the infant. However this depends on a number of factors like dose received through breast milk, effect of drug on the breastfed baby and the way it is taken. We will look at some of the medicines that are considered to be dangerous to take when you are breastfeeding.
Breastfeeding and drugs

Drugs That Are Unsafe While You Are Nursing
  • Amantadine (Symmetrel): It is used to treat the Parkinson’s disease or the flu. Amantadine is not safe to take during breastfeeding because of its potential risk to the fetus. It may also reduce the milk supply
  • Amiodarone (Cordarone): It is used to treat heart related problems. This drug is unsafe to use while breastfeeding because animal studies have shown that it has toxic effects on the embryo. Women who are taking Amiodarone should stop nursing
  • Antineoplastic Agents: Antineoplastics or anticancer drugs that are used to treat cancer are not safe to use when breastfeeding especially alkylating agents such as cyclophosphamide. There is risk of Neutropenia in infants when these are used while nursing. Women taking these drugs should not breastfeed
  • Aspirin: It is used to treat arthritis. Use of this drug is not recommended in nursing mothers as there is a risk of development of Reye’s Syndrome in the baby. An alternate drug can be used in the nursing women rather than high doses of aspirin
  • Chloramphenicol: Chloramphenicol is an antibiotic which is used to treat many serious bacterial infections like meningitis, plague, typhoid, cholera. Vomiting, excessive gas and sleepiness may occur in the babies whose mother take oral chloramphenicol while nursing. Some alternative drugs can be used in lactating women or in some cases breastfeeding should be discontinued temporarily
  • Clozapine(Clozaril): It is a psychiatric medicine and used to treat schizophrenia. It works by balancing the neurotransmitters in the brain. It should not be used in nursing mothers as it poses a risk of excessive drowsiness or severe hematologic effects. The babies whose mothers took clozapine during breastfeeding experienced speech delay, agranulocytosis
  • Dipyrone: It is an analgesic and anti-inflammatory drug used for pain and inflammation. Large amounts of the drug are transferred through breast milk and it can be found in urine and blood of the breastfed babies. It can cause pharmacological effects in the baby
  • Gold Salts: Gold salts (Myochrysine) used to treat rheumatoid arthritis. It is transferred to the baby through the breast milk and can cause serious adverse reactions in the baby. It is advisable to stop nursing or to use alternative medicines if breastfeeding is preferred
  • Radioactive Iodine: It is used in the treatment of hyperthyroidism. Radioactive iodine treatment passes to baby through breast milk and it can expose the baby to radiation. Breastfeeding should be discontinued permanently for the current child. Also, you should avoid close contact with the infant after the radioactive iodine treatment
  • Lipid lowering drugs: Lipid lowering drugs like Lescol, Zocor, Mevacor, Lipitor, Lopid are used to lower the bad cholesterol and triglycerides levels in the blood. It can disturb the baby’s lipid metabolism so it should avoided while you are nursing
  • Metamizole: it is anti-pyretic, analgesic, anti-inflammatory drug used for pain however should not be taken in breastfeeding as it is excreted in the breast milk and may harm the baby
  • Salicyclates: They are used to bring down the fever, pain and inflammation in the cases of arthritis. Exposure to this drug may cause Reye’s syndrome in the breastfed infant. While breastfeeding this drug should be avoided or alternative medicines to be used

It is advisable to avoid using the above medications while you are breastfeeding. Doctor’s advice to be taken so that he can suggest discontinuation of breastfeeding if necessary in cases where it is important to be on medication for the mother.
Dangerous drugs for breastfeeding

Safe Drugs During Breastfeeding

The drugs which are generally safe during lactation are:

  • Mild pain relievers like Acetaminophen and Paracetamol
  • Antacids like Maalox, Mylanta used to treat upset stomach
  • Antibiotics used to treat ear, lung, skin, urinary tract, throat infections like Cephalosporins
  • Clotrimazole used to treat fungal infections
  • Progestin-only contraceptive pills like Micronor, Norplant
  • Ibuprofen pain reliever
  • Decongestant nasal sprays

Though a lot of drugs are safe to use during breastfeeding. It’s better to consult your doctor before taking any OTC medicine. After all you do not want any harm to be caused to your tiny infant.