Vicodin at low doses safe during breastfeeding

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A new study may allow breastfeeding mothers who need a stronger pain medication after giving birth to heave a sigh of relief. Reporting in the journal Obstetrics & Gynecology, researchers found that the breast milk of patients given up to 30 milligrams of hydrocodone (which when combined with acetaminophen is marketed as Vicodin) did not contain harmful levels of the drug or its byproduct if administered in small doses throughout the day. Based on their data, the researchers estimate that newborns would end up with less than one percent of the dose given to older infants with severe pain.

While ACSH's Dr. Elizabeth Whelan is glad that the media has chosen to cover this finding, she laments that “you wouldn’t see headlines saying it’s okay to breastfeed after consuming a glass of wine, which studies have shown to be safe during pregnancy. Of course, we advise breastfeeding mothers (or anyone else) not to mix alcohol and vicodin.”

ACSH's Dr. Gilbert Ross points out that women who undergo an episiotomy or c-section often require medication to treat post-surgical pain, which can last for days and sometimes weeks. “These findings could offer women who do not see improvement with weaker pain pills some welcome relief without fear of harming their baby, but these results need to be replicated in a larger study.”