- An introduction to asthma and breastfeeding
- What should I know about breastfeeding as a mum with asthma?
- Is it safe to take my asthma medication while I am breastfeeding?
Women with asthma often wonder what they should know about breastfeeding with this condition. Often there concerns regarding taking medication while breastfeeding. On the other hand, they may not realise that there is evidence to suggest exclusive breastfeeding for the first few months of life has a protective effect in preventing their baby from developing asthma.
Breast milk has been perfectly designed to suit your baby. Breast milk contains immune properties which help protect your baby against a host of infections. It also contains special fatty acids which help to develop the baby’s brain and thereby enhance your baby’s intelligence. It also has been shown to protect against allergic disease, which will be discussed below.
For you, the mother, breastfeeding reduces the risk of breast cancer, ovarian cancer and hip fractures (when compared to women who have not breast fed). breastfeeding helps the mother lose weight faster after pregnancy, when compared to non-breastfeeding mothers. Very importantly, breastfeeding also enhances bonding between mother and child.
A number of studies have shown that exclusively breastfeeding your baby for at least 3 months can decrease the risk of your baby developing asthma and other allergic diseases. This protective effect appears to be greater for mothers who have a family history of atopy compared to those who do not. Exclusive breastfeeding means that the baby is only fed breast milk during this time. In other words, the baby is not given any formula milk during this time.
The decision to continue to take asthma medications depends on the severity of your asthma and how well the medication you are taking is controlling your asthma. In general, there have been few studies looking into the effects of taking asthma while breastfeeding. It is thought that most asthma medications enter the breast milk in small amounts and they are not known to be harmful to the infant. Recommendations regarding the following commonly used asthma medications are as follows (taken from the Monthly Index of Medicines):
- Inhaled preventers and relievers: It is not known how much of these drugs enter the breast milk although it is thought to be quite low. Therefore, it is recommended that they are not taken while the mother is breastfeeding unless their benefits outweigh any potential risks.
- Oral corticosteroids: These drugs are secreted into the breast milk and it is therefore recommended that women do not take these drugs while breastfeeding.
It is wise to consult your GP before taking any medication while breastfeeding. Your doctor will know you what is suitable for your needs.
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