Adderall and Breastfeeding: Stimulant Effects & Alternatives
Breastfeeding moms are always concerned about how what they put in their bodies may impact their babies.
For moms with Attention Deficit/Hyperactivity Disorder (ADHD), there is an added concern about whether the medication they take for their condition will pass through their breastmilk and have adverse effects on their babies.
While it is always best to check with your healthcare provider about taking any medications while breastfeeding, medication for ADHD included, we’re going to take a look at what several studies have shown when it comes to ADHD medicine and breastfeeding.
If you’re pregnant or breastfeeding with ADHD, you should discuss potential risks, side effects, and alternative ADHD treatment options with your doctor to make an informed decision about what is best for you and your baby.
Related: Breastfeeding Medication Safety | New AAP Guidelines
Is It Safe to Take ADHD Medications While Breastfeeding?
When it comes to taking ADHD medications while breastfeeding, multiple studies have shown that the risk of adverse effects on breastfed infants is minimal if the mother continues to take her ADHD medication as prescribed.
It is very rare that a breastfeeding mom will have to stop breastfeeding to continue her medication. Many times, doctors look at the risk of a mother’s ADHD symptoms getting worse from not taking her medication and compare that to any potential risks to the baby if medications are continued.
For many women taking stimulants to treat severe ADHD, withholding the medication may significantly impact the mother’s ability to function and pose a risk to her baby.
Some women also take stimulants along with traditional antidepressants. Stopping the use of the stimulant may make women more prone to postpartum depression. In these cases, doctors may decide to continue the current treatment for a breastfeeding mother.
Doctors will also look at the dosage a woman is taking. The amount of any medication passed through breast milk and to the baby depends on the dosage of the medication.
The higher your dose of stimulants, the greater the potential risks of side effects and complications being passed onto your baby.
Overview of Common Types of ADHD Medications
ADHD medication is divided into two main categories, stimulants, and non-stimulants. Stimulants are the most widely used ADHD medications because they usually provide great results. Non-stimulants are not as effective as stimulants. Their effects generally last no longer than 24 hours.
Your prescribed dosage depends on your age. height/weight, and needs. Your doctor will decide if an immediate-release or sustained-release (extended-release) capsule will provide the best results based on your needs and condition.
Can you take Adderall while breastfeeding?
While there is not enough data available to determine Adderall’s (Dextroamphetamine-amphetamine) effects on breastfeeding, most studies have shown there is no direct effect on infants who are breastfed.
But, at higher doses, there are some questions about whether or not taking stimulants can negatively impact breast milk production.
Is it safe to take Vyvanse while breastfeeding?
While there have not been many studies done on the effects of Vyvanse (Lisdexamphetamine) while breastfeeding, large doses may interfere with milk production, especially in women whose lactation is not the best.
Check with your doctor to see if there are concerns about the dosage you are taking and its potential effects on breastfeeding.
Can you take Ritalin while breastfeeding?
According to the National Institutes of Health, Ritalin (Methylphenidate) is excreted in breast milk only in small amounts. To date, there have been no reports of breastfed infants having any adverse effects if their mother took Ritalin while breastfeeding them.
Are there medications to avoid while breastfeeding?
While some ADHD medications may be relatively safe to take while breastfeeding, there are some medications that women are advised to avoid.
ADHD medications to avoid when breastfeeding include:
There have not been enough studies to support atomoxetine’s use during breastfeeding. Limited research has shown that it may have adverse effects on the infant or the mother’s milk production.
Although guanfacine is rarely used to treat ADHD, there is not enough data to support its use during breastfeeding. Since the drug has a low molecular weight, it is likely to penetrate milk at higher levels.
Potential risks of ADHD Medication for breastfeeding babies
If a woman is breastfeeding and taking ADHD medication, medical professionals often advise parents to monitor their babies for certain issues. These include:
- Trouble sleeping
- Weight gain
- Changes in feeding
- Dry mouth
It’s important to note that newborns can be more susceptible to side effects from medications that pass through breast milk than older babies.
As babies grow stronger, they are better able to filter out what they don’t need. This is why some doctors may recommend a woman lower her ADHD medication dose when their baby is only a few months old.
If you are taking ADHD medication and notice any of these side effects in your baby, contact your pediatrician and your own healthcare provider to decide the best course of action.
How to Reduce the Risks of ADHD Medication on Babies
Choose Immediate Release Over Extended Release
Breastfeeding women who are concerned about any potential risks to their babies may want to consider switching from a sustained release to an immediate release medication. The benefit of IR medication is that the dosing schedule can be modified to better accommodate the baby and mother’s sleep schedule.
With an immediate release preparation, the mother can also adjust the dose from one day to another, depending on her needs.
Using an immediate-release preparation can also help to reduce the amount of exposure since the among of the drug secreted into the breast milk depends on the concentration of the drug in the mother’s blood.
With the immediate release, the blood leaves of the stimulant peak within 1-2 hours and then decline. With sustained release preparations, blood levels rise more slowly and remain elevated for 6-8 hours.
Women may also choose to pump shortly before taking their medications. This can be helpful for those using immediate-release preparations, not sustained.
Non-stimulant ADHD treatment options for breastfeeding mothers
Any non-stimulant medication use or other ADHD treatment for breastfeeding mothers should also be discussed with a medical professional. Some women may benefit from Complimentary and Alternative Treatment for ADHD, such as nutritional supplements, other natural products, and massage.
Complimentary and Alternative Treatment for ADHD can also include eliminating certain foods that include sweeteners, artificial coloring, MSG, and preservatives. Some studies have shown minimal benefits for those who have done this.
Other women may decide to try other lifestyle changes like daily exercise or meditation as an alternative treatment to stimulant medication. For some people with ADHD exercise and sticking to a healthy diet can help boost their brain’s dopamine and relieve the severity of ADHD symptoms.
However, it is important to understand the risks and benefits of each treatment and discuss them with your doctor before adding anything new to your regimen.
The Bottom Line on ADHD Medication and Breastfeeding
Studies on the impact of popular ADHD meds such as Ritalin, Vyvanse, and Adderall on breastfed babies have been minimal. Research has shown a minimal effect, resulting in doctors generally allowing women to continue taking their medications while breastfeeding.
When it comes to meds used to treat ADHD in breastfeeding women, each woman must have a discussion with their doctor to determine what is best for their specific situation and the potential risks of any medication getting passed in the mother’s milk.
For more information on how to make breastfeeding easier for you and your baby, check out these 7 Must-Have Breastfeeding Supplies!
- Is It Safe to Take ADHD Medications While Breastfeeding? - MGH Center for Women's Mental Health. (2018, January 31). Retrieved May 7, 2023, from https://womensmentalhealth.org/posts/is-it-safe-to-take-adhd-medications-while-breastfeeding/
- Is it safe to breastfeed while taking methylphenidate? - PubMed Central (PMC). (2019, February 5). Retrieved May 7, 2023, from https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC6367579/
- Lisdexamfetamine (Vyvanse) use while Breastfeeding. (2022). Drugs.com. Retrieved May 7, 2023, from https://www.drugs.com/breastfeeding/lisdexamfetamine.html
- van der Schans, J., & Kan, C. C. (2015). ADHD medication and breastfeeding. Tijdschrift Voor Psychiatrie, 57(3), 195–199. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC4569107/
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Having previously worked as a news producer, Kristina left the world of television when her second daughter was born, so that she could focus on her family and love of writing.