Can You Take Antibiotics while Breastfeeding?

    Updated 07 November 2020 |
    Published 26 December 2018
    Fact Checked
    Medically reviewed by Dr. Anna Targonskaya, Obstetrician and gynecologist
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    During lactation, multiple situations can arise that require the mother to take a certain antibiotic medication. However, a large number of breastfeeding mothers wonder whether antibiotics are safe for the baby. After all, everything that you consume, will pass on to the baby.

    According to the The National Center for Biotechnology Information, most of the antibiotics are safe to consume during lactation. The majority of the most commonly used antibiotics haven’t been shown to cause any adverse effects. 

    Although taking antibiotics while nursing generally doesn’t have adverse effects on the baby’s health, here are some things to watch out for. It’s recommended to consult with your doctor about any type of medicine you take. 

    What should every mother know about taking antibiotics while nursing?

    There are some things every mother should know about antibiotics and breastfeeding: 

    • Your baby’s poop might change. If you notice that your baby has runnier poops than before or greener ones, this is due to the antibiotics you’re taking. 
    • When you take antibiotics while nursing, you may notice your baby becomes a bit more unsettled with colic-like symptoms. 
    • Antibiotics might influence the density of natural bacterial flora in small intestines. Since babies have underdeveloped colonies of “good bacteria”, antibiotics can damage their existing bacterial colonies in the gut, leading to malabsorption of food nutrients, causing diarrhea.

    Will the antibiotics pass into the breastmilk?

    Everything that the mother consumes gets passed on to the baby via breastfeeding. For this reason, it’s very important for the mother to maintain a healthy diet, which is balanced and has a mix of essential nutrition.

    Antibiotics and breastfeeding are closely connected. Since the breast receives nutrients from the blood, antibiotics have the potential to pass onto the breastmilk. The amount of antibiotics that will pass to the breastmilk depends on the frequency of the dosage and concentration of the antibiotic compounds. 

    What are some factors that determine the effects of antibiotics on babies?

    The following factors might determine the effects of antibiotics while nursing:

    1. The age and health of the baby. Babies that are younger than two months are most prone to side effects of antibiotics. This is because their liver and kidneys are still in development and not mature enough to flush out the medication. Once they turn six months, the adversity reduces. 
    2. Antibiotics in combination with other medications. How safe an antibiotic is for your baby can also depend on whether it’s combined with another type of medication. Sometimes, a safe antibiotic when consumed together with other drugs may form compounds that could be harmful to the baby. It’s, therefore, essential to discuss this with your doctor before taking any medicine.
    3. Chemical properties of the antibiotic. There are some chemical factors, such as molecular weight, half-life, binding with proteins, and lipid solubility that can determine the ability to the drug to persist in breastmilk. Drugs that have a longer half-life and heavier molecular weight take a longer time to break down. If an antibiotic binds to fat/lipid quickly, then it will transfuse faster from blood to milk. 
    4. Breast milk composition and acidity. Certain antibiotics have a tendency to dissolve in milk that has greater protein content than blood. Mothers of premature babies need to be extra cautious with their antibiotic intake as they produce milk with higher protein levels. 

    How can I avoid the risks of antibiotics in babies?

    Taking certain measures can keep your baby safe from the side-effects of antibiotics while nursing:

    • Every time you have the chance, choose antibiotic ointments and creams instead of oral medication. By doing so, you’ll prevent the drugs passing into the breastmilk. 
    • Take antibiotics that are safe for babies. You can discuss this with your doctor. 
    • You can take the antibiotic right after breastfeeding to have a wider gap between the consumption and the next feeding session.

    What should I discuss with my doctor?

    Here are some things you should discuss with your doctor about antibiotics and breastfeeding during your next visit:

    • Inform your doctor that you’re lactating so they take this information into consideration when prescribing antibiotics. 
    • If you’re taking any other drug, let your doctor know. Some antibiotic, in combination with other drugs, might form compounds that may be harmful to the baby. 
    • It’s important to share your baby’s health and age with your doctor. This is essential when prescribing antibiotics. 
    • Discuss any possible alternatives to antibiotics for your condition, if there are any. Your doctor might recommend antibiotic ointments and creams instead of oral medication. 

    What should I do if my baby has a reaction?

    If you’re taking antibiotics while nursing, make sure you keep an eye on any changes in your baby’s eating or sleeping habits, changes in temperament, or a rash. If you notice any changes, contact your doctor immediately. 

    Remember never to self-medicate, not even for the mildest medical condition. Before taking any antibiotics while nursing, make sure you check with your doctor whether the drug is safe for the baby. 

    History of updates

    Current version (07 November 2020)

    Medically reviewed by Dr. Anna Targonskaya, Obstetrician and gynecologist

    Published (26 December 2018)

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