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Can I breastfeed while taking Suboxone? Your Guide To Breastfeeding and OUD Treatment

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March 18, 2021

“Bottles fill his stomach, but breastfeeding fills his soul.”

-Diane Wiessinger, IBCLC (International Board of Lactation Consultant Examiners)

“Breastfeeding is nature's health plan.” 

-Author unknown

“Breastfeeding is an instinctual and natural act, but it is also an art that is learned day by day. The reality is that almost all women can breastfeed, have enough milk for their babies and learn how to overcome problems both large and small. It is almost always simply a matter of practical knowledge and not a question of good luck.”    

-La Leche League

Overview of the Benefits of Breastfeeding

Indeed, breastfeeding is the most instinctual way to nourish our infants, providing natural antibodies to fight infections and creating a unique bond between mom and baby. Most women are able to breastfeed effectively.

For these reasons, all major health organizations recommend breastfeeding as the optimal source of infant nutrition, with exclusive breastfeeding recommended for the first six months of life. After six months, complementary foods may be introduced, and most organizations recommend continuing breastfeeding for 1-2 years.

Benefits to mom:

  • Decreased rates of breast and ovarian cancers
  • Decreased rates of postpartum depression
  • Decrease rates of high blood pressure, heart disease, and diabetes

Benefits to baby:

  • Decreased risk of skin allergies
  • Lower rates of GI infections
  • Higher IQs later in life
  • Possible long-term benefits: preventing high blood pressure, diabetes ear & lung infections, asthma, and sudden infant death syndrome (SIDS)

What if I take Suboxone for opioid addiction? Is it safe to breastfeed while taking Suboxone?

Yes!   

The transfer of medication for addiction treatment (MAT), including buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) and methadone, through breast milk is minimal. 

So, breastfeeding while on buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is safe for your baby!

The American Academy of Pediatrics recommends breastfeeding for women taking buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) or methadone as long as moms:

  • are stable on these medications (doing well in recovery)
  • are not using illicit drugs
  • do NOT have HIV infection

Note: Moms should suspend breastfeeding if they return to using illicit opioids.

Do Babies Go Through Withdrawal After They’re Weaned off Breast Milk?

No, since there is very minimal buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) that is excreted into breast milk, babies will NOT experience withdrawal after they are weaned from breast milk.

When I’m on Suboxone, what other benefits does breastfeeding offer?

Babies born to moms taking buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone)--the evidence-based treatment for opioid addiction--may experience withdrawal symptoms after they are born.  This is called neonatal abstinence syndrome.  NAS is considered expected, common, and treatable.

Some babies who experience NAS may require medications (generally morphine) to help them comfortably and safely withdraw.

Breastfeeding and skin-to-skin contact can be used to minimize these side effects.  In fact, when moms breastfeed in the hospital after giving birth, the bond and attachment formed between mom and baby have been shown to console the infant, decrease NAS symptoms, and sometimes even prevent the need for medications, thus promoting shorter hospital stays for your baby.

Bottom line:

  • Buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) is a safe medication to take while breastfeeding.
  • Women with opioid addiction on buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone) and doing well in recovery are strongly encouraged to breastfeed to benefit the health of both mom and baby.

Is Suboxone treatment a fit for you?

Contact us directly to speak with a specialist.
Call (844) 943-2514 or book an enrollment call

Bicycle Health

Bicycle Health is a telehealth company that provides evidence-based treatment for opioid dependence with buprenorphine/naloxone (Suboxone), including patients who are pregnant.

To learn more about the success rates and safety of Bicycle Health’s telemedicine addiction treatment in comparison to other common treatment options, learn more about our process, call us at (844) 943-2514, or schedule an appointment here.

Header Photo by Wes Hicks on Unsplash

Citations

Jones HE, Deppen K, Hudak ML, Leffert L, McClelland C, Sahin L, et al. Clinical care for opioid-using pregnant and postpartum women: the role of obstetric providers. Am J Obstet Gynecol 2014;210:302–10.

Klaman, Stacey L, et al.  “Treating Women Who are Pregnant and Parenting for Opioid Use Disorder and the Concurrent Care of Their Infants and Children: Literature Review to Support National Guidance.”  Journal of Addiction Medicine.  2017 May/June; 11 (3): 178-190.  

Kramer MS, Aboud F, Mironova E, et al.; Promotion of Breastfeeding Intervention Trial (PROBIT) Study Group. Breastfeeding and child cognitive development: new evidence from a large randomized trial. Arch Gen Psychiatry. 2008;65(5):578–584.

Horta BL, Loret de Mola C, Victora CG. Breastfeeding and intelligence: a systematic review and meta-analysis. Acta Paediatr. 2015;104(467):14–19.

Reece-Stremtan S, Marinelli KA. ABM clinical protocol #21: guidelines for breastfeeding and substance use or substance use disorder, revised 2015. Breastfeed Med 2015;10:135–41.

Sachs HC. The transfer of drugs and therapeutics into human breast milk: an update on selected topics. Committee on Drugs. Pediatrics 2013;132:e796–809.

Westerfield KL, Koenig K, Oh R. Breastfeeding: Common Questions and Answers. Am Fam Physician. 2018 Sep 15;98(6):368-373. PMID: 30215910.

Wojnar-Horton RE, Kristensen JH, Yapp P, Ilett KF, Dusci LJ, Hackett LP. Methadone distribution and excretion into breast milk of clients in a methadone maintenance programme. Br J Clin Pharmacol 1997;44:543–7.

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