A book review:

"Medications and Mothers' Milk" 2002, 10th ed. by Tom W. Hale, Ph.D.

Also known as the Red Book, this book is one of the definitive reference books for health care professionals (HCP) caring for mothers and babies. If your HCP doesn't have this book recommend it to them. Many don't. Many HCPs mistakenly rely on the Physicians Desk Reference, which is really just a compendium of manufacturers' literature about their own drug and manufacturers often take the easy way out and say, "don't breastfeed on this medication" in order to minimize liability.

Breastfeeding mothers should always check before they take a medication but they should know that most medications are safe to take while breastfeeding and those that are not can usually be replaced with an equally effective but more compatible drug.

Breastfeeding matters. No mother should stop breastfeeding because of wrong infomation about the safety of a drug she needs. Instead, accurate information and help to find a replacement medication, if needed, should be the norm. Sadly, this is often not the case.

Organized by medication names, this book cites research and gives a rational basis for recommendations about the safety of medication taken by breastfeeding mothers for the breastfeeding baby.

Dr. Hale puts out a new edition every 1 - 2 years so this book usually has current information. At about $20 each the book is inexpensive enough to replace as each new edition comes out.

Dr. Hale integrates multiple media to widely disseminate his research. He maintains a website where the Red Book can be purchased, a wonderful article on the "mechanisms of drug entry into human milk" is maintained. Free updates to the Red Book are available by email subscription, and two active forums (one for parents and one for professionals) to ask questions of Dr. Hale and his associates are maintained at this URL:
He also will fax information at a fee.

Suitable for all health care professionals. Mothers whose HCPs haven’t quite caught up yet should consider purchasing their own copy.

updated 1/26/04 to reflect new edition