Taking Action
Steps You Can Take Now
Migraines and Your Menstrual Cycle
Migraines and Oral Contraceptives
Migraine and Pregnancy
Migraines and Menopause
Migraines and Stress
Don't Suffer in Silence

Breastfeeding
You’ll find that breastfeeding may help your migraines. If your migraines are “menstrual migraines,” breastfeeding will delay the return of the menstrual cycle. However, you’ll be coping with the stresses of new motherhood, including disrupted sleep. If your migraines continue, new mothers should discuss the best ways to manage their headaches with their healthcare provider.

Your healthcare provider may recommend non-pharmaceutical treatments or medications that are safe to use during the breastfeeding phase and pose no risk to the baby. Many breastfeeding mothers assume that migraine medications cannot be taken while nursing. While this is true of some medications, it is not true of all medications. Which medications are safe to use while breastfeeding, depends on several factors related to the specific medication, such as the level it reaches in the mother’s bloodstream and how long it stays in the body.

If you do choose to use medication for your migraines, you should involve your baby’s pediatrician in the decision of which medication is safe to use while nursing. The American Academy of Pediatrics has recommended the following guidelines1 to healthcare providers when prescribing drugs to breastfeeding mothers:

1. Decide if drug treatment is necessary.
2. Use the safest option.
3. If the drug may be ingested by the infant, consider a blood test for the child.
4. Ask the mother to take her medicine directly after breastfeeding is complete.

Another useful idea is to breast pump after using the medication and dispose of the milk.2 The nursing mother can then feed her baby breast milk pumped prior to taking the medication(s).

If you are taking medication be sure to consult with your healthcare provider about how long to wait before using the breast pump. For instance, one medical researcher has noted that new mothers who take triptan medications should probably use the breast pump about four hours after taking the medicine (and before resuming breast-feeding).2
Do not make any decisions about your medication without first consulting your healthcare provider.

A number of migraine treatments – from simple pain relievers to migraine-specific agents are compatible with breast-feeding.3 Your healthcare provider can advise you of what is right for you and your baby.

If you prefer to avoid pharmaceuticals, comfort measures such as lying down in a dark room or using ice and heat on the head are often easy to do with an infant. Massage therapy is another option.

With careful study of migraine and a consultation with their headache provider, breastfeeding mothers can find effective ways to manage headache pain.

 

References:
1. American Academy of Pediatrics Committee on Drugs. Transfer of drugs and other chemicals into human milk. Pediatrics. 1989;84:924-936.
2. Diamond S. Conquering your migraine. 2001. Published by Simon and Schuster.
3. Data on file, National Headache Foundation. (Women’s issues in migraine program, chaired by Merle Diamond, MD.)

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