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Breastfeeding

Medication & Drugs While Breastfeeding

It can be confusing and worrying if you need to take any medication whilst you are breastfeeding your baby.

Sometimes it is not clear if the medication is safe when you read the leaflet inside the packet. The Breastfeeding Network have produced some Drugs Factsheets to help with this. 

Recreational drugs or alcohol may make you unable to care for your baby safely. Some medications may make you feel very drowsy.

Please do not co-sleep with your baby if you have taken medication, used drugs or drank alcohol as this greatly increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death (SIDs). 

If you think your baby has been affected by any drugs or alcohol you have used while breastfeeding please seek emergency help by calling 999 immediately.

Take any drugs or medications with you to the hospital so that doctors can treat your baby as soon as possible. 

Dive Deeper

Prescribed Medication

Always check with a GP or Pharmacist if you are not sure if it is safe to take a medication whilst breastfeeding. If you are being prescribed medication by a GP or Nurse please make sure you let them know you are breastfeeding so they can ensure the drug they prescribe is safe for your baby.

Do not stop taking a medication you are prescribed for a long term or ongoing condition without discussing this with a GP, or consultant if you have one. Let them know you intend to or are breastfeeding your baby.

Read more about breastfeeding and medicines

Alcohol

Drinking alcohol is not advised when pregnant or breastfeeding. Any alcohol you drink will find its way to your baby via the cord (if you are pregnant) or through your breastmilk. It is not fully clear what level of alcohol is harmful to babies in the womb or through breastfeeding, so it is best to avoid drinking if you can.

It takes about 2 hours on average for alcohol to clear from your system from 1 standard drink – therefore 4 hours for 2 drinks, 6 hours for 3 drinks and so on.

If you are going to drink alcohol and are breastfeeding your baby please follow the NHS advice. 

Alcohol in any quantity can make you less able to respond to your baby. You will need to ensure they are cared for by a sober adult, if you have drunk enough to feel disorientated or unable to keep them safe. 

Smoking

If you are a smoker the best thing you can do for your own health and your baby is to give up if possible. If you’re pregnant and would like help to quit smoking, you can get free text message support from MiQuit.
You can also ask for help to stop smoking from your GP, midwife or health visitor and they can refer you to Smokefree Norfolk.
If you are not ready to stop smoking yet the following advice will help to reduce risks to your baby.
  • Do not share a bed with your baby if you are a smoker as this greatly increases the risk of Sudden Infant Death (SIDs).
  • Keep your home completely smoke free - only smoke outside the home, not in another room of the house.
  • When you have smoked a cigarette change your top and wash your hands before holding your baby. Ask anyone else who smokes to do the same.
  • Keep breastfeeding your baby to provide immunity and protection.  

Read more about breastfeeding and smoking

Recreational Drugs

Recreational drugs are harmful to you and to your baby. You should not use recreational drugs when breastfeeding or caring for your baby, as they could make you unable to look after them safely or be available to meet their emotional/physical needs. 

Read more about support for drug and alcohol misuse 

Who can Help?

If your baby is less than 28 days old you can contact your local midwifery team or you can contact the Healthy Child Programme at any time following your baby's birth by calling Just One Number on 0300 300 0123 or texting Parentline on 07520 631590.

Our opening hours are 8am-6pm Monday-Friday (excluding bank holidays) and 9am-1pm on Saturdays.

Norfolk Healthy Child Programme has a team of infant feeding champions who can contact you by video call/telephone initially to discuss your questions and refer you to further help if required. All of our staff are trained to Unicef standards to provide you with the best possible breastfeeding support and advice.

It may help in the first instance to look again at our page on Positioning and Attachment or read the Essential Guide to Feeding & Caring for your Baby

Norfolk’s Early Childhood and Family Service (ECFS) offers support for all parents and carers with children aged 0 to 5 years.

To speak to other Norfolk parents and carers, you can join our online community forum below.

 

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