Breastfeeding & Medications: The InfantRISK Center to the Rescue!

*UPDATE: The InfantRisk Center is now open! (806)-352-2519* That’s a number all breastfeeding moms should have, and can also give to care providers when medications are being prescribed.

When we talk about breastfeeding moms and medications, we reference Dr. Thomas Hale’s Medications and Mothers’ Milk.  It’s the golden standard for finding information on how drugs affect breastfeeding mothers, their babies, and their breast milk.  No other reference compares (for details on why Hale’s is the standard, read this article from Medscape).

The definitive guide to medications & breast milk

While the lactation community recognizes Dr. Hale’s work and uses it frequently, it’s not something that the medical community at large has adopted.  Too many doctors, nurses, pharmacists and other practitioners simply aren’t aware that this reference is available–though as membership in the Academy of Breastfeeding Medicine grows, that will hopefully change.  In the meantime, the Physician’s Desk Reference is the guide practitioners typically use to advise pregnant and lactating mothers.  In short, the default listing for most medications in the PDR is to take the most conservative route possible:  recommend that pregnant and lactating mothers not use them, as research is scarce and lawsuits are abundant.

This is where Dr. Thomas Hale has done a great service to the breastfeeding community:  he has produced Medications and Mothers’ Milk, an evidence-based guide to lactational pharmacology (it includes information for pregnant women, as well).  It is updated biannually in print form and on an ongoing basis online.

Here’ s the problem:  If practitioners don’t know about Medications and Mothers’ Milk, or if they do, but don’t use it . . . then mothers and babies suffer.  All too often, this is the case.  It doesn’t have to be this way!

The solution?  To create the InfantRISK Center.  The goal of the InfantRISK Center is “To form a national call center, where mothers and their doctors can access up-to-date, evidence-based answers to their questions about using specific medications during pregnancy or lactation” (quote from the InfantRISK Center information page).

The sad reality of the medical world today is that practitioners simply aren’t educated enough on the subject of breastfeeding.  And while every practitioner ought to have a copy of Medications and Mothers’ Milk, far too few do.  This national call center can fill in the space where training and education fall off, giving practitioners the ability to provide their patients with accurate, safe advice in a timely manner.  The InfantRISK Center can also be at the forefront of furthering research on lactation and medications, an area that is sorely lacking.

The key part of the InfantRISK Center’s mission is that it is also for mothers.  Not every pregnant or breastfeeding mother is going to own their own copy of Medications and Mothers’ Milk. That said, many moms realize that they aren’t getting the most accurate, breastfeeding-friendly advice possible from their practitioners (for help in choosing great practitioners, see Your A-Team).  The InfantRISK Center will give them a hotline to call and check on how drugs might interact with pregnancy and lactation, and do so with confidence and ease.  No more consulting with Doctor Google when they aren’t comfortable with the counsel they’ve been given; no more asking around to friends; no more wondering.  That’s a beautiful and Babe-worthy thing!

Here’s are some more details on how much this Center could serve the breastfeeding community: (taken from this page)

  • [Provide] drug risk information based on evidence
  • Reduce misinformation
  • Reduce unnecessary pregnancy terminations
  • Reduce unnecessary lactation termination (early weaning, leading to increased health risks for mother & baby)
  • Provide health care professionals with accurate and understandable risk information and registry data
  • Provide and advise physicians on alternative medications

The InfantRISK Center has huge potential for helping moms and babies.  The challenge will be getting the word out to doctors, nurses, pharmacists, practitioners and moms so that all of them know where to turn whenever there is a question about breastfeeding and medications.  You can help by letting other moms and your health care providers know about it–share this blog post!

If you’d like to help Best for Babes get this information into the hands of more moms and healthcare providers, you can donate here.

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