Study: Most medications and vaccines completely safe for breastfeeding mothers

Most drugs do not show up in breast milk in "clinically meaningful levels," according to researchers

By Katie McDonough
Published August 26, 2013 5:26PM (EDT)

A report released Monday by the American Academy of Pediatrics and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration reveals that breastfeeding mothers can safely take a majority of medications and receive most immunizations at no risk to their infant's health.

While many new mothers stop taking their prescription medications because of concerns about their newborn's safety, these fears are largely unfounded, according to the report, which is the first conclusive study on the issue in more than a decade. "This cautious approach may be unnecessary in many cases, because only a small proportion of medications are contraindicated in breastfeeding mothers," according to the report's authors. Though many drugs taken by breastfeeding women do transfer to their breast milk, most do not present in "clinically meaningful levels," the authors added.

The report discourages new mothers from taking narcotics like codeine and oxycodone, and indicates that some antidepressants remain "worrisome" while others are considered much safer, according to researchers.

Ruth Lawrence, a professor of pediatrics and obstetrics and gynecology and breastfeeding expert at the University of Rochester Medical Center in Rochester (but who wasn't involved in the report) noted to the Wall Street Journal that antidepressants like Prozac and Wellbutrin show up in breast milk in higher concentrations than Paxil, which is the preferred option for nursing mothers.

Lawrence went on to say that the study was a "long-awaited statement" that could change the "tendency among practitioners ... to say, 'I don't know the answer, therefore why don't you stop breast-feeding.'"


Katie McDonough

Katie McDonough is Salon's politics writer, focusing on gender, sexuality and reproductive justice. Follow her on Twitter @kmcdonovgh or email her at

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