Can You Take Prednisone While Breastfeeding?

According to a 2016 review published in the journal Nutrients, breast milk provides all the necessary nutrients and antibodies that a baby needs for healthy growth and development. It contains the perfect balance of proteins, fats, carbohydrates, and vitamins, and minerals that are important for your baby's health. Despite the benefits, breastfeeding when you have an inflammatory condition requires additional attention, especially if you take prednisone

This corticosteroid medication is a synthetic form of the hormone cortisol, naturally produced by the adrenal glands, per Medical News Today. It treats various conditions such as inflammation, autoimmune disorders, allergies, and some types of cancer, and is often taken orally in the form of tablets or liquid. For many, it is usually prescribed for a specific period, depending on the treated condition. 

While it is generally considered safe for a nursing mother to take corticosteroids like prednisone, it's vital to consider any possible side effects and breastfeeding challenges that the medication may cause.

How prednisone affects breast milk

According to a 2018 study published in the Journal of Clinical Pharmacology, prednisolone binds to plasma proteins and can pass into breast milk. The exact amount of prednisolone transferred to breast milk may vary depending on factors such as dosage. As explained by the study, the maternal use of prednisolone at doses up to 40 mg typically results in low levels of the medication in breast milk. This makes it unlikely for any negative effects to occur in breastfed infants.

It's normally recommended to avoid breastfeeding for 4 hours after a dose of prednisone; however, this may not be necessary, as the drug levels in breast milk are low, according to a 2022 article published on LactMed. The article further explains that there are no reported side effects of prednisone or other corticosteroids on breastfed babies. 

However, high doses of prednisone may temporarily reduce breast milk supply. Therefore, if you are breastfeeding, you may want to speak with your doctor about whether your medication dosage should be adjusted. 

Talk to your doctor

Overall, the decision to take prednisone while breastfeeding should consider the potential benefits and risks. In some situations, the benefits of taking prednisone may outweigh the potential risks — this is especially true if your medical condition is serious and needs close monitoring. In other cases, avoiding the medication while breastfeeding may be best.

It's generally important to discuss any medication use with your doctor, especially when pregnant or breastfeeding. They can help determine the best way forward based on your lifestyle and individual circumstances. If you're taking more than 40 mg of prednisone daily, close monitoring of your baby may be required, as explained by the National Health Service (NHS). Your doctor may advise you to look out for any signs of adverse effects, such as changes in behavior, feeding, or weight gain. Your doctor might adjust the dose or discontinue the medication if any concerns arise.