Safe breastfeeding for drug users

Breastfeeding is the best way to feed your baby. It is also good for your health.

Using some drugs and substances can make breastfeeding unsafe for your baby. Talk to a health professional about how you can breastfeed safely.

Planning for safe breastfeeding 

  • Planning to breastfeed starts during pregnancy. Health professionals can work with you to make sure you breastfeed safely.
  • Your local maternal and child health nurse can make sure that your baby is in good health and growing well. They can also offer advice on breastfeeding and caring for your baby. It’s good to visit regularly.
  • There is still a lot we don’t know about the effects of drugs on your baby when you are breastfeeding but it’s thought that, even at low levels, taking drugs is likely to:
    • make your baby drowsy, feed poorly and have disturbed sleep patterns and poor weight gain
    • cause behavioural problems.
  • If you have been using benzos, your doctor may want to change the type of drug you are taking. Some benzos are better than others for breasfeeding.
  • It is not safe to use inhalants while you are breastfeeding.
  • It is not safe to breastfeed if you are still injecting drugs.
  • If you are sharing or re-using injecting equipment, you can get blood-borne viruses such as HIV. HIV can be passed on to your baby through your breast milk.
  • Many drugs such as amphetamines can be ‘cut’ with substances that can get into your breast milk and harm your baby.

A breastfeeding plan

  • If you do use drugs such as amphetamines or heroin as a one-off, you will need to express your breast milk in the 24 hours afterwards and throw it away before you breastfeed again.
  • After using drugs, it is not safe for you to care for or breastfeed your baby. You are not likely to be alert to your baby’s needs and could accidentally smother or drop your baby. If you do use drugs, make sure there is a responsible adult to care for your children.
  • Never sleep with your baby especially if you have been using drugs or alcohol.
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Disclaimer

The Women’s does not accept any liability to any person for the information or advice (or use of such information or advice) which is provided on the Website or incorporated into it by reference. The Women’s provide this information on the understanding that all persons accessing it take responsibility for assessing its relevance and accuracy. Women are encouraged to discuss their health needs with a health practitioner. If you have concerns about your health, you should seek advice from your health care provider or if you require urgent care you should go to the nearest Emergency Dept.

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