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As if breastfeeding didn’t have enough learning curves, it gets more complex when you aren’t sure which medications are safe (or not) to take while breastfeeding. It’s hard for moms who may worry that a vital medication may harm their breastfeeding baby, and past research on this issue has been far from helpful. In the past, doctors and midwives have advised against most drugs while breastfeeding, under the basic precautionary principal – i.e. if you’re not sure the drug is absolutely safe, maybe you shouldn’t take it. On top of that, plenty of studies have emerged over the last few decades noting that a drug is safe while breastfeeding, than flipping, deciding the drug isn’t safe. Now a new report from the American Academy of Pediatrics (AAP) notes that perhaps breastfeeding mothers have been ill advised and needlessly worried over the years as most prescription drugs likely won’t risk a baby’s health. The new report, published recently in the journal Pediatrics states, “Many mothers are inappropriately advised to discontinue breastfeeding or avoid taking essential medications because of fears of adverse effects on their infants. This too cautious approach may be unnecessary in many cases, because only a small proportion of medications are contraindicated in breastfeeding mothers or associated with adverse effects on their infants.” The report notes that doctors and other care providers should attempt to become more capable when it comes to teaching mothers about the dangers (or not) of a specific drug, but the problem is that some of the most current information available is still contradictory.  As a mom, clearly the AAP report won’t fully clear up your worries about drugs while breastfeeding, but they are offering a new LactMed App that may make life a bit easier.

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According to the AAP, breastfeeding mothers should know that many prescription drugs can be taken while breastfeeding, without major risk. That said, some medications, even if necessary for a mother may cause risks — thus you should switch to a less risky drug or forgo the drug altogether. You have to weigh the risks and benefits for both mother and baby. For example, antidepressants are necessary for some mothers. If not taking an antidepressant will place you and your baby needlessly at risk, then maybe the drug is more important than the possible risks. This is where the new LactMed App may come in handy. LactMed App is designed to help mothers figure out which medications are safe, somewhat risky or downright dangerous while breastfeeding. The app can help you decide if you need to switch drugs, stop breastfeeding to take the drug or will sooth your mind by letting you know a drug is mostly safe while breastfeeding. For example, the App will show you that some pain medications are safer than others and that some antidepressants are riskier than other choices. Of course keep in mind that information on drug safety changes frequently. Also note that a conversation with your doctor or midwife, not an App, is the number one best way to figure out which drugs are safest while breastfeeding. Still, the App offers tons of information in easy to digest chunks, so you may want to check it out. The App is 100% free at the Apple App Store or Android Market, and if you’re not into smartphones, you can check out the App online at the National Institutes of Health website.

+ The Transfer of Drugs and Therapeutics Into Human Breast Milk: An Update on Selected Topics

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