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Breastfeeding and medication for long-term conditions

02 December 2022
Volume 33 · Issue 12


Women taking medication for long-term conditions who are breastfeeding require special consideration. Wendy Jones provides an overview of the key issues when prescribing medication for this group of patients

As the number of women with chronic conditions increases, so does the number of women who will be breastfeeding while taking medication. General practice nurses have a key role to play in identifying these patients, as they may not always volunteer this information. When prescribing to breastfeeding women it is important to be aware that some of the drug that she takes is likely to pass to the baby via breastmilk. Prescibers need to be aware of sources they can use to find more information on this topic, so that they can help patients to make informed decisions and keep the mother and baby dyad at the centre of the consultation.

In each general practice there will be women who have a chronic medical condition but who are also breastfeeding their baby. However, we may not know who they are. Contacts with mothers have shown that they may forget to tell their health practitioners. This has been particularly true with increasing numbers of video calls. It is also anecdotally true, according to social media groups, when women are continuing to offer breastfeeds alongside appropriate solid foods to older toddlers and children. Some women may wish to avoid conversations when they anticipate possible criticism, even though this concern may have no foundation at all. How we, as healthcare professionals, have fed our own babies, if we had them, may influence our feelings. Nevertheless, breastfeeding is a health promotion issue and not just a matter of providing milk for babies (Renfrew and Hall, 2008). None of us can know everything, but we can take opportunities to increase our knowledge in areas which are important to families but in which we lack experience.

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