Codeine and breastfeeding a deadly combo for baby

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Now, I'm not one to fan fires when it comes to everything we hear is harmful to mothers and their children (unborn or among us), but I took strong notice of this article. Last Friday, the US FDA put out an advisory that mothers who breastfeed and take codeine could potentially fatally harm their babies.

If a mother takes the codeine, and it turns out she is what is referred to as a "ultra-rapid metabolizer," her body could quickly metabolize the codeine, which releases morphine (a metabolite of codeine) into her system, which could then potentially be passed on to her baby rapidly through her breastmilk.

So, you say, ok, I hear things like this all the time, with words like "could" and "potential" and "may." Well, according to the FDA as few as 1% or as many as 28% of women could be ultra-rapid metabolizers. How do you know whether or not you are one? It's impossible to know if you are without genetic testing.

And as I've said many times, I'm not expert, BUT, I can assure you that your insurance company is not going to cover you getting tested to find out if you're an ultra-rapid metabolizer.

The article suggests doctors prescribe their mother patients the lowest dosage of things that contain codeine like cough medicine and ask that patients take it the least amount of time. Others are given codeine for episiotomies. Still, the risk exists, even in small doses, so it is suggested that mothers monitor their children for signs of morphine poisoning, such as unusual sleepiness and limpness.

Hey, I have another idea--how about NOT taking anything with codeine in it? There's a thought. How about sucking it up and trying something a little less likely to poison your child? Wow--how novel! I had an episiotomy--know what i took for it? Ice packs. A lot of them. They worked like a dream and I had no pain or complications...nor did I suffer from hemorrhoids (which can occur during pregnancy or after delivery).

Sorry to get on my soapbox (whoah--give me a minute, it was a steep climb up here) but I want to just test a theory out on you.

So, remember way back when mothers weren't told to not do or take anything, or, in fact, were prescribed things by their doctors that were supposed to help them? You know, like thalidomide? Their children had all kinds of problems.

Then the current thinking changed to pregnant and nursing women not taking ANYTHING, ever. Now things are slowly creeping back--suddenly caffeine is ok. Some doctors will even allow a little alcohol consumption. And there are lists being circulated about what medicines preggos and nursing moms can take.

And, steadily, children are being born with or diagnosed with problems again. One in 166 children are diagnosed with some form of autism every day in this country, yet no one knows why it's happening.

Just seems strange to me that doctors would prescribe something like codeine to nursing mothers. Codeine is powerful stuff, and common sense would tell a person to avoid anything too strong when she's pregnant or nursing, simply for the sake and safety of her child. I would never say, oh, yeah, I'll take codeine for that nagging cough even though it's going to go straight through me and right into my breastmilk. Great idea!

Sorry. Ok, now I'm off the soapbox. Anyway, just talk to your doctor or healthcare professional if you are pregnant or nursing and you end up being prescribed codeine.

Glorious picture of mannequin breastfeeding by chispita 666.

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AdviceMama Says:
Start by teaching him that it is safe to do so.