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  • Steven Reinberg
  • Posted August 3, 2020

Breastfeeding OK After Mom Has Anesthesia, Experts Say

It's perfectly safe to breastfeed after a mom receives anesthesia, new British medical guidelines say.

And she can start as soon as she's alert and able to do so, according to just-published guidelines from the U.K. Association of Anaesthetists.

"The guidelines say there is no need to discard any breast milk due to fear of contamination, since evidence shows that anesthetic and non-opioid painkiller drugs are transferred to breast milk in only very small amounts," said Dr. Mike Kinsella of the association's Safety Committee, based at St. Michael's Hospital in Bristol, England. "For almost all of these drugs, there is no evidence of effects on the breastfed infant."

But drugs such as opioids and benzodiazepines should be used with caution, the guidelines said -- especially with mothers of babies younger than 6 weeks old.

"In this situation, the infant should be observed for signs of abnormal drowsiness and respiratory depression, especially if the woman is also showing signs of sedation," the guidelines said.

Reducing opioids is better for breastfeeding women who have surgery, they noted, urging doctors to avoid giving them codeine because of differences in infant metabolism. Local or regional anesthetics are least apt to disrupt breastfeeding, according to the guidelines.

The guidelines were published July 31 in the journal Anaesthesia, to mark the start of World Breast Feeding Week, Aug. 1-7.

Women with a child age 2 or younger should be asked if they are breastfeeding so they can be told breastfeeding is safe after surgery, according to the guidelines.

"Where possible, day surgery is preferable to avoid disrupting normal routines," guidelines authors said in a journal news release. "A woman having day surgery should have a responsible adult stay with her for the first 24 hours. She should be cautious with co-sleeping, or sleeping while feeding the infant in a chair, as she may not be as responsive as normal."

More information

To learn more about breastfeeding, visit the U.S. Department of Health and Human Services .

SOURCE: Association of Anaesthetists, news release, July 31, 2020
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