Breastfeeding mothers pass drugs to babies
Breastfeeding can pass drugs and medicines that are being taken by the mothers to their babies.
Scientists from various Spanish hospitals and research centres reviewed the methods used to detect substances in breast milk, their adverse effects, and the recommendations that mothers should follow. The general recommendation is to totally avoid drug abuse while breastfeeding, because these substances can pass directly through to the newborn.
For their study, the researchers used the average daily intake of the breastfeeding baby, around 150 millilitres of milk per kilo of weight, as a benchmark. The breast milk of smoking mothers contains between 2 and 240 nanograms of nicotine per millilitre, which means their babies receive a dose equivalent to 0.3 to 36 micrograms/kg/day. These infants tend to suffer more from colic and are more prone to respiratory infections. Caffeine, found in coffee, tea, cola drinks and medicines, can cause irritability and insomnia. Although the level of caffeine absorption varies greatly from one person to another, this substance has a lengthy half-life in newborns.
For alcohol, the exact risk is still ill-defined, and no studies have been carried out to correlate the dose, although some research suggests it can harm the infant's motor development, as well as causing changes in their sleep patterns, reduce the amount they eat, and increase the risk of hypoglycaemia.
Cannabis, which is transmitted both through the mother's milk and smoke, can cause sedation, lethargy, weakness and poor feeding habits in breastfeeding babies. The long-term risks are also unknown. Women are advised not to use it, but if they use marijuana occasionally, the experts advise them to do so several hours before feeding, and not to expose their children to the smoke.
Opiates used as medicines - morphine, meperidine and codeine - are excreted into the milk in minimal amounts and are compatible with breastfeeding, as are benzodiazepines, as long as they are taken in controlled doses. These are the drugs most frequently prescribed to women during pregnancy and after birth.
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