In most cases, antibiotics are safe for breastfeeding parents and their babies if recommended by your doctor or medical professional.
“Antibiotics are one of the most common medications mothers are prescribed, and all pass in some degree into milk,” explains the Academy of American Pediatrics (AAP). At the same time, the AAP adds: “In general, if the antibiotic would be administered directly to a premature infant or a neonate, then it is safe for the mother to take during breastfeeding.”
So what does this mean for you and your breastfeeding baby?
First, it’s important to keep in mind how medications generally work when you’re breastfeeding.
As the Mayo Clinic explains, the majority of drugs that become present in your bloodstream will also be present in your breast milk. However, the amount in your milk is usually lower than the amount in your blood, and most medications “pose no real risk to most infants.”
However, the Mayo Clinic also notes that there are exceptions, and as such, every medication you take — including antibiotics — should be cleared with your baby’s pediatrician.
In addition to the medication itself, there are other factors to keep in mind, including how old your baby is. Exposure to antibiotics will pose a greater risk to premature babies and newborns, as opposed to older babies and toddlers, explains the Mayo Clinic.
And again, if your baby could safely take the antibiotic, it’s likely safe to take it while breastfeeding.
If you’re considering taking an antibiotic that’s not considered safe for your baby, you’ll need to decide how important it is for you to take the medication.
Are there safe alternatives? How long do you have to be on the medication? Can you “pump and dump” and then resume breastfeeding?
This question is often considered on a case-by-case basis depending on your baby’s age, weight, and overall health — and always in consultation with your baby’s pediatrician and your prescribing provider.
However, the Mayo Clinic lists several antibiotics that are generally considered safe for breastfeeding women, including:
- penicillins, including amoxicillin and ampicillin
- cephalosporins, such as cephalexin (Keflex)
- fluconazole (Diflucan) — this is not an antibiotic but a common antimicrobial used to treat fungal infections
If you’re considering taking an antibiotic that’s not listed above, your best bet is to talk to your baby or child’s pediatrician. Chances are that the antibiotic is safe, or that there’s a safe alternative.