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Vol. LXIV, No. 22
October 26, 2012

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Top 10 Reasons to Love LactMed
NLM Smartphone App Helps Lactating Mothers with Medications

On the front page...

From mighty databases, smartphone apps grow.

Do you have questions about medications and breastfeeding? The LactMed app can help. It’s packed with information about maternal and infant drug levels, possible effects on lactation and on breastfed infants and alternative drugs to consider.

“LactMed has 3,000 unique references linked to PubMed and 900 records for drugs, vaccines, biologics and supplements,” says Florence Chang, branch chief for Biomedical Files Implementation in NLM’s Specialized Information Services Division. LactMed was developed by a drug information specialist with the consultative assistance of medical experts under contract with NLM.

The LactMed app has a distinguished lineage. It’s the direct descendant of NLM’s Drugs and Lactation online database—LactMed db for short—which is part of the mighty TOXNET cohort.


Launched in fall 2011, the app has already logged 69,000 downloads—a robust response for a new application—and kudos from health providers and nursing mothers.

Both the online and smartphone versions are peer-reviewed and fully referenced compendiums of drugs to which breastfeeding mothers may be exposed, so the value added is tremendous.

“Without proper evidence-based information,” says Jim Knoben, a pharmacist who helped develop the project, “mothers are unnecessarily discontinuing medications.”

At the same time, he says, some medications that show up in breast milk are harmful to the infant.

The LactMed app team includes (from l) Jennifer Dong, Ying Sun, Colette Hochstein, Florence Chang, Jim Knoben and Jamie Peacock. Stephanie Publicker is not pictured.

The LactMed app team includes (from l) Jennifer Dong, Ying Sun, Colette Hochstein, Florence Chang, Jim Knoben and Jamie Peacock. Stephanie Publicker is not pictured.

Let’s say you’ve taken Naproxen after knee surgery. Is it safe to breastfeed?

LactMed reports that in breastfed infants, “Naproxen possibly caused prolonged bleeding time…Other agents may be preferred while nursing a newborn or preterm infant.”

For those without smartphones, the NLM online version, launched in 2006, will still be freely available. In the past year alone, it’s logged over 1 million searches.

Meanwhile, NLM staff are tracking public inquiries and social media forums for breastfeeding community advocates (a.k.a. “lactivists”) and breastfeeding mothers. The team finds a marked disconnect between these groups and their health care providers.

“We see a communication gap,” says Jamie Peacock, who manages the NLM 4Caregivers Facebook page, “and what you see playing out in social media is uncertainty.”

So they’re meeting the trend. The app lays down the best science inside the new tools—Android, iPhone and iPod.

The database has been mobilized.

“You need to know what you don’t know,” says librarian Colette Hochstein. “We encourage people to use LactMed and other NLM tools so that they can take more responsibility for their health care.”

Top Ten Reasons to Love LactMed

Here are the top 10 reasons to love the LactMed app:

  • Each entry supplies a reliable summary of use, drug levels, effects in infants and on lactation, alternative drugs and drug class.

  • The American Academy of Pediatrics endorses it: “The most comprehensive, up-to-date source of information regarding the safety of maternal medications when the mother is breastfeeding is LactMed.”

  • Physicians and midwives can access it on their phones at the office, hospital or clinic.

  • Originally designed for health care providers, LactMed use has spread to breastfeeding community advocates (“lactivists”) and breastfeeding mothers. Social media users across multiple platforms rate it highly.

  • In “native” apps, the data is already in the phone, so you don’t need a connection to use it. Just pull up the data to start the discussion with your doctor or midwife.

  • Your smartphone will tell you when an update is available and will integrate it into the existing application. There’s a link inside the app to report any technical problems.

  • There’s a smartphone voiceover option for the visually impaired.

  • A work in progress, Lact-Med will continue to add drugs and other substances such as industrial chemicals and radiation.

  • Remember our NIH mission—the part about the development and dissemination of science and health information? You got it.

  • It looks cool on your phone.

Even more reasons to love LactMed are freely available at

You can also download it to your iPhone or iPad from the app store or to your Android device via Google Play.

For those without smartphones, LactMed online is accessible, free of charge, via TOXNET at

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