Why breastfeeding is important and how pharmacy can help

Vanessa Chapman, Director, Trent Medicines Information Service & UK Drugs in Lactation Advisory ServicePublished

This page describes the benefits of breastfeeding and the role registered pharmacy professionals have in ensuring continued breastfeeding and safe medicines’ use.

You may also be interested in our other pages in this area: Medicines specific advice during breastfeedingAdvising on medicines regimens during breastfeeding, Questions to ask when giving advice on medicines and breastfeeding, and Information products that give advice on medicines and breastfeeding

Benefits of breastfeeding

Breastfeeding provides nutrition tailored to the infant’s needs.  It also provides additional nutrients and immunoglobulins, and has other health benefits for the infant and for the mother. Current guidance recommends exclusive breastfeeding for around the first 6 months of life and all women should be encouraged to breastfeed.

The pharmacy role

Registered pharmacy professionals are ideally placed to undertake a risk assessment and give informed advice if the mother wants to continue to breastfeed whilst taking medicines.

Stopping breastfeeding when a medicine is prescribed is not a “no-risk” option to either the mother or the infant as they would lose all the benefits of breastfeeding.  Equally, a mother should not be denied a medicine she needs due to a perceived unacceptable risk.

The following quote from a health visitor demonstrates the importance to patients of individualised advice.

“A mother was devastated after being told she couldn’t breastfeed due to the medicines she was taking. This was an IVF pregnancy and she may not have the chance to have another baby. After getting some advice from the pharmacist, she is now breastfeeding a large term baby and she is ecstatic! I wish you could have seen her beaming smile.”

Podcast

Listen to a conversation with an expert pharmacist discussing why this is an important topic and the role registered pharmacy professionals can play in advising patients and colleagues.