Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Affect Breastfeeding?

Does Medication-Assisted Treatment Affect Breastfeeding?

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

Dr. Norris Von Curl, II, MD

One of the first things a new mother who enters treatment for substance abuse might wonder is whether treatment may affect breastfeeding. After all, many women rely on this method to supply their newborns with the nutrition they need. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), breastfeeding provides newborns with the ideal nutrition to support them early in life. Breastfeeding also helps to protect both mother and child from illness and disease.

Deciding whether to pursue treatment for substance abuse during breastfeeding can be difficult. Addiction treatment often involves medical interventions combined with psychotherapy and behavioral modification. It is common to be concerned about what effects any treatments may have on newborn children.

When developing interventions, the care team at First Steps Recovery will consider every aspect of a client’s life. That includes whether or not a new mother is breastfeeding her baby. We factor in all considerations including the importance of breastfeeding for both the mom and the child. Ensuring the well-being of both the mother and the baby and taking proactive approaches to keep them both safe is of utmost concern to us.

How Addiction Treatment Can Affect Breastfeeding

Being a new mother can be a stressful period of adjustment. A new mother is learning to adjust her life and needs around a newborn baby who needs her care. For some, the idea of also having treatment for substance use during this time can add additional stressors.

When choosing First Steps Recovery, this need not be a concern. The care team at First Steps Recovery is with our clients every step of the way, including during the postpartum period. We understand the intersection of the well-being of the mother and child with the need for strategies to overcome substance use.

There is no clear evidence that most treatments for substance use will harm a mother or a baby. That is not to say there is no chance, but there is simply a lack of evidence. However, one thing that is proven to cause harm to a mother and child is substance use and addiction. That is why we are committed to helping mothers overcome their substance use and protect the health and welfare of all parties involved.

What Is Medication-Assisted Treatment?

It is important for a new mother to establish a healthy balance during the postpartum period. This is especially true for women who seek treatment for substance use disorder (SUD). Once a baby is born, life changes for the mother. Now she is caring for an infant who has only her to rely on.

Whether a mother gives birth before seeking treatment or gives birth during ongoing treatment for SUD, the journey to recovery is an important one. Various medical interventions may be employed. For that reason, it is important for a new mother to consult with medical professionals before using any medication that can affect breastfeeding.

The purpose of medication-assisted treatment (MAT) is to help prevent some of the more severe symptoms of withdrawal for the person being treated. These medications for treatment are evidence-based. This means they have been studied and found to be effective in treatment. Combined with counseling interventions, MAT can be highly effective in treating SUD. Health care professionals may sometimes use these methods to help women in postnatal care seeking addiction treatment.

Will Cessation Medications Affect Breastfeeding?

All medications have potential side effects. Some may affect breastfeeding and others may not. It is important for every woman to discuss the potential side effects with her doctor or pharmacist to determine whether a medication is right for her.

For example, naltrexone and disulfiram which are used in treating alcohol cessation may have side effects for breastfeeding mothers. Acamprosate is unlikely to have side effects and may be a safer alternative.

Ultimately, the decision of which medications should be used is one to be made by the doctor and the patient together. Those parties must review the guidelines for each drug to determine its safety and make informed decisions.

Finding a Healthy Balance After Pregnancy

Being a new mother means focusing on taking care of a newborn. However, mothers have to care for themselves too. That is why they are seeking treatment for addiction. When a mother cares for herself, she gains the strength and energy to do what she needs to do in her life.

How to Get the Most Out of Postnatal Care

Substance abuse leaves lasting scars in one’s life, but even more concerning are the scars it may leave on one’s children. It is possible to overcome these difficulties, and it starts with acknowledging that one needs help.

Whether someone started treatment before becoming pregnant, during postnatal care, or anytime between, the most important thing is that they get healthy. By seeking treatment, one has already done the best thing they can do for themselves and their baby. Whether one is concerned about MAT or just needs answers about different types of therapy, the care team at First Steps Recovery can help.

We are here for each woman’s first steps into treatment and recovery and the first steps for their newborns as well. Our focus is on a woman’s success and the health and well-being of herself and her family. That’s what First Steps Recovery is all about.

Therapies That Will Not Affect Breastfeeding

Of course, MAT is just one of the interventions available for new mothers seeking substance use cessation. Healing has many aspects. Managing withdrawal symptoms with medications is just one aspect of treatment.

Recovery involves a holistic focus on all aspects of one’s self and one’s life. First Steps Recovery offers a wide variety of therapies that can complement or replace MAT. Holistic options can include yoga, art therapy, and music therapy. Everyone’s journey will be different. The important thing is for new mothers and babies to achieve optimal health and well-being while minimizing side effects.

Breastfeeding has become an important topic in our culture. As a new mother, you have a singular focus: the health and well-being of your fragile newborn child. Many experts have told you that breastfeeding is the best way to give your child the nutrition they need to become strong and healthy. However, women in substance use treatment have additional concerns to take into account. With the help of our expert care team at First Steps Recovery, you can find the safest and most proactive approaches to substance use cessation. We can help you determine which medications are right for you. Call us today at (844) 489-0836 and discover your options for treatment. 

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