Cannabis use on a regular basis by breastfeeding mothers concerns me. Cannabis has a long half life (25-57 hours) and it takes 5 times this to be removed from milk. THC crosses the blood brain barrier and it is known to accumulate in body fats. Although it is highly protein bound and subject to first pass metabolism, the milk plasma ratio is 8. We do not know enough about the impact on the developing brain to be sure that the amount passing through breastmilk is safe. Regular use is not recommended in the breastfeeding mother or other members of the family who may expose the baby through passive inhalation.
Interestingly I am getting more reports of mums who have taken codeine accidentally – having opened the wrong packet, or been given it by supportive partners or relatives and friends. They are terrified that they have to stop breastfeeding and ask for how long they need to pump and dump their milk (such a terrible risk of liquid gold!). Here is the answer!
A brief introduction to the information on the safety of anti epilepsy medication during breastfeeding. It does not include full information but you can find more in my book or by emailing me.
There is no reason why women who have taken anti-epileptic medication throughout their pregnancy should not be encouraged to breastfeed their baby (Veiby 2013). However, women should be counselled on the signs of risk to be aware of, in particular excessive somnolence and poor weight gain. The risks increase with multiple drug regimens.
Just this week the number of queries about the use of oseltamivir (Tamiflu) has increased dramatically so I have written this fact sheet. Hope the incidence of flu doesn’t increase dramatically this year. The best prevention is hand washing and that those with symptoms stay in isolation.
Just recently I have been contacted by several mothers who were told that they cant breastfeeding during the 24 hour period of bowel prep prior to a colonoscopy or for 24 hours following the procedure under sedation. This is not supported by research and understanding of the pharmacokinetics of the drugs used. It is also a potential risk in that the mother may develop blocked ducts or mastitis necessitating antibiotics if she is unable to express her milk, or in many cases hasn’t been advised to! Not all babies will drink from a bottle so may become dehydrated. Some babies are allergic to cow’s milk protein and may be compromised by 3 days of artificial formula. Hence this fact sheet on the bowel preparations generally used.
It is acceptable to breastfeed as normal during bowel prep. The mother should drink freely of the allowed clear fluids. Someone may be needed to look after the baby during rapid need to evacuate bowels – unless you have taken these products you cant begin to understand the urgency!
The reason I write these factsheets is in response to the questions which are posed to me on social media. I have included the use of midazolam in fact sheets on colonoscopy, endoscopy and dental sedation on information on the Breastfeeding Network but still mothers are told that they need to delay procedures, are only allowed gas and air during the procedure or must stop breastfeeding for 24 hours. The latter is recommended by the manufacturers but since the half life is 3 hours it is all gone from the mother’s body and therefore her milk within 15 hours. Those 9 hours make a massive difference to a breastfeeding dyad which seems to be ignored by the professional
This factsheet contains information taken from my book Breastfeeding and Medication 2018. I hope it helps breastfeeding mums and professionals
It is surprising how often mums manage to take products containing aspirin by mistake – they are given by well meaning partners, friends at the office or just taken quickly for pain. Then the realisation that aspirin is contra indicated in breastfeeding. What to do? How long to express?
The answer is actually simple with one single accidental exposure. The risk is low and I have been unable to find any references associating Reye’s syndrome with the amount of aspirin passing through breastmilk.
Reye’s syndrome This is a rare syndrome, characterised by acute encephalopathy and fatty degeneration of the liver, usually after a viral illness or chickenpox. The incidence is falling but sporadic cases are still reported. It was often associated with the use of aspirin during the prodromal illness. Few cases occur in white children under 1 year although it is more common in black infants in this age group. Many children retrospectively examined show an underlying inborn error of metabolism.
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One of the hardest questions I have to answer. I want to help but I need to keep the breastfed baby safe too
Avoid if possible. Use for as short a time as possible. Observe baby for drowsiness. Avoid falling asleep with the baby in bed, on a chair or sofa
Committee on Safety of Medicines advice
1 Benzodiazepines are indicated for the short-term relief (two to four weeks only) of anxiety that is severe, disabling or subjects the individual to unacceptable distress, occurring alone or in association with insomnia or short-term psychosomatic, organic or psychotic illness.
2 The use of benzodiazepines to treat short-term ‘mild’ anxiety is inappropriate and unsuitable.
3 Benzodiazepines should be used to treat insomnia only when it is severe, disabling, or the individual is caused extreme distress.
Bisoprolol use seems to be increasing from the queries I receive. It is difficult to assess safety as published information relies on one study where the level in milk was undetectable BUT the baby was not given any of its mother’s milk. If other beta blockers are not suitable then the baby should be monitored closely for side effects and particularly hypo-glycaemia if newborn.
BNF ” With systemic use in the mother, infants should be monitored as there is a risk of possible toxicity due to beta-blockade. However, the amount of most beta-blockers present in milk is too small to affect infants.”
That new title is going to take a lot of getting used to! I am very proud and delighted to have been nominated for an MBE for services to mothers and babies as a founder of the Breastfeeding Network Drugs in Breastmilk Service. I never thought this would happen to me following a path which I didnt really plan 22 years ago but has led me to this amazing place. I feel inspired to keep going and hopefully change some more professional attitudes that prescribing a medication doesnt mean that a mother needs to interrupt breastfeeding. Thank you to the many, many people who have sent messages of congratulations today – I appreciate them so much.
I also want to thank my wonderful family for their support – my husband Mike, my daughters Kerensa, Bethany and Tara, my son in laws Christian, Steve, Rich and Ian and of course my treasured grandchildren Stirling, Isaac, Beatrix and Elodie and the new bump due in 2019. I cant tell you how much I love you all