Although breastfeeding doesn't require moms to watch what they ingest as rigidly as pregnancy does, nursing moms do have to be careful. Nearly everything a breastfeeding mom eats or drinks will pass into their breast milk, causing some moms to worry if their medications are safe for them to take. You might be wondering how to tell if there are prescription painkillers in your breast milk, to make sure your medications are actually safe to take while you're nursing.
According to the Mayo Clinic, almost every drug will transfer into your breast milk to some extent. Although this sounds terrifying, the majority of prescriptions pass into your milk in very small concentrations — about one percent — and are generally safe for your baby and won't affect them in any way. The article noted, however, that each medication is different and must be considered on a case by case basis.
Although the majority of prescriptions are safe for lactating moms to take, when it comes to painkillers, things get a little bit trickier. According to an article from CBS News, painkillers that contain codeine, hydrocodone, oxycodone, pentazocine, propoxyphene, and meperidine have been shown to pass into breast milk in higher quantities that can be dangerous for babies. Most doctors recommend staying away from these types of painkillers.
Although there are ways to test the alcohol content and even THC levels from marijuana in breast milk at home, testing levels from painkillers isn't as straight forward. To test the exact levels of pain killers in your breast milk, you'll likely need to submit your breast milk for review to a professional lab.
Even though a prescription painkiller will pass into your milk, knowing whether or not your prescription is safe for your baby doesn't have to be complicated. When you visit your doctor to get your prescription, mentioning that you're breastfeeding will help them choose a prescription that is safe for both you and your baby. Similarly, there are resources available, like the MommyMeds app ($4) that are designed to inform breastfeeding moms which medications are safe to take and which are not.
Although taking medications can be a scary thing to do while you're nursing, you don't have to rule them all out for fear of them harming your baby. As long as your painkiller is approved by your doctor (or on the list of safe medications,) you can take it without worrying about its effect on your little one.