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Open Access Open Badges Commentary

Avoiding risk at what cost? Putting use of medicines for breastfeeding women into perspective

Lisa H Amir1*, Kath M Ryan2 and Susan E Jordan3

Author Affiliations

1 Mother & Child Health Research, La Trobe University, Melbourne, VIC, Australia

2 School of Nursing and Midwifery, La Trobe University, Bundoora, VIC, Australia

3 Department of Nursing, College of Human and Health Sciences, Swansea University, Swansea, Wales, UK

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International Breastfeeding Journal 2012, 7:14  doi:10.1186/1746-4358-7-14

Published: 17 October 2012


Breastfeeding women often need to take medicines, and therefore health professionals need to consider the effects of medication on lactation and the breastfed infant, and any associated risks. This commentary discusses the tragic case of a young woman with a history of mental illness who committed suicide in the postpartum period. She was determined to be a 'good mother' and breastfeed, and to avoid any potential adverse effects of medication on her breastfed infant. The final outcome was fatal for both mother and child. We argue that if women require medication during lactation, all risks need to be considered – the risk of not treating the maternal medical condition may greatly outweigh the potential risk to the breastfed infant.

Breastfeeding; Lactation; Medication; Side-effect; Risk; Maternal health; Postpartum