ADHD Mom: Weaning Your Nursing Child to Start Medication

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Disclaimer:  Dammit Jim, I’m a … uh, not a doctor.  None of the following should be taken as medical advice!  Also, this is not a paid endorsement for Strattera.  If the drug doesn’t work out, I will be ditching it and will be back on here to tell you how miserable the experience was.  I’m really hoping that doesn’t happen though!

I was recently prescribed Strattera (atomoxetine) for the sort-of-but-not-really-a-surprise diagnosis of Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder I received a few months ago.  I was waiting to start this prescription because I’m still breastfeeding my younger daughter.  That was what my doctor recommended, anyway, although she did give me the trial pack and told me I could start the medication as soon as I wean her.

I really wanted to start this prescription, like, yesterday.  I think it is going to change so much and give me what I’ve likely been lacking all these years in order to be super productive and my best self.  I have also been struggling with the motivation to wean this kid (for what it’s worth, she is 2.5 years old, no longer a nursing infant), because it’s always easier to give in and nurse her to sleep than to let her blood-curdling screams pierce my slumberless nights.  I considered just starting the pills in order to steel my resolve to wean her.

I decided to see what Google thinks about breastfeeding and Strattera.  Surprisingly, there is little in-depth online discussion about this particular ADHD medication and nursing a baby, let alone nursing a toddler — which I would assume would be much safer, since this kid is quite hefty at over two years old and no longer relies on breastmilk for her sole source of nutrition, obviously.  Actually, at this point it’s all about the comfort nursing — her comfort, not mine.  I know there is a way to effectively and comfortably nurse a toddler if you want to.  But I don’t want to, not anymore.

Oh yeah, Google and breastfeeding and drugs.  (Do you see why I need this prescription?)  I found maybe one or two people on an ADHD forum talking about trying Strattera with no ill effects while breastfeeding kids even younger than mine.  Turns out that no studies involving nursing mothers have been done on this particular drug — like so many of them out there — so while there’s no known risks, there’s also no guarantee that the nursing baby or toddler won’t be impacted in anyway.  We also don’t know for certain how much of the drug is actually passed into the breastmilk.

So what would you do if you were me?  Again, I have a healthy and chunky two and a half year old who only comfort nurses, usually at bedtime and overnight, but occasionally during the day on the weekends.  Clearly the only truly safe option here is to put up with the headache of completely weaning her, tantrums and all.  With that said, I would think that I could monitor her for any unusual symptoms after starting the medication.  Another factoid I learned is that, unlike many other ADHD medications, Strattera is not a stimulant.  So I am hoping this lessens the likelihood that my already hyper kid will be making like a rubber bouncy ball once the full dose kicks in.

POST-SCRIPT:  I wanted to write this earlier, and by the time I sat down to do it, two things had happened, in rapid succession.  First, my husband said enough was enough and decided to take matters into his own hands by keeping out of the kids’ room while he dealt with a toddler screaming for mommy all night.  I can’t even express in words how grateful I am for this.  I was still unable to sleep through the noise, but being able to remain motionless in my own bed through the ordeal was a nice change.  For two nights in a row, I just got up at 5:00 in the morning to bribe my kid with some questionably healthy breakfast foods instead of acceding to her demands to nurse.  It is slowly sinking for her in that the nursies are not coming back …

I started the Strattera this morning.  I think I would have started it anyway, even if I was still working on the weaning process, but that’s easy for me to say now that it’s not an issue for me.  I would love to hear if anyone has a similar story to share.  I don’t think I would have gone on the medication while nursing an infant, but with that said, it does seem like the risks are relatively low and that the child can be monitored for adverse effects.  For those of you struggling with severe ADHD, I would imagine that your doctor could talk to you about how the potential risks may be outweighed by the benefits of starting the prescription.  (Also, see disclaimer above.  Don’t follow my example and jump headlong into a decision involving a controlled substance based on advice from internet strangers.)

7 thoughts on “ADHD Mom: Weaning Your Nursing Child to Start Medication

  1. Okay so 4 years later this mama is on the struggle bus with a family and diagnosed two years when I was pregnant with our third child…my world is falling apart and really want to start this prescription today that I just got but still nursing my 19 month old. Anyone reading this have any advice? No one caught this for me when it was really noticeable in college but I had no idea. Actually my dad knew I probably had it but didn’t tell me??? Anyway probably need therapy for that lol. Anywho prayers please as I start this with my nursing toddler who isn’t so hefty. Midlife crisis (I’m 41 now) is real when you find out about ADHD after being married with 3 kids and everything is falling apart because you’re still having kids and can’t take medication! I hope it even works after all the struggles!!

    1. Hi Jessica, thanks for your comment. It has been a looooong time since I wrote this post so let me share an update: Strattera didn’t work for me at all, so I switched to Adderall, the more traditional stimulant med. In the end, I found the side effects intolerable, and decided to ditch ADHD meds altogether. My nursing toddler is now six years old and doing great, and I’m happily unmedicated. I made some major lifestyle changes that I think really helped me cope with my planning, organization and task initiation issues. I’m self-employed but I have a few contract gigs that let me work from home. I’m pretty ruthless and unapologetic about using the organizational strategies I need to manage my household as well as my clients for work. These are self-imposed accommodations I had been using for years, even before I was diagnosed. Now the official ADHD label lets me utilize them without guilt or worry about how it looks to the outside world. Look, if I need sticky notes all over the house to make sure I get shit done and fulfill my obligations, that’s what works for me and I don’t feel the need to apologize for it! The mindset shift has been incredible. Also, it turns out I was really depressed and anxious, so medicating that aspect (and trying some therapy, which is another story), helped a lot with the co-morbid ADHD. Hope this gives you some encouragement. Whatever you ultimately decide re: medication or not, you’re taking a step toward improving your life and I know you can do it! 🙂

      1. I’m so glad I found this post. I write about ADHD, but I’m pregnant for the first time since my diagnosis and in uncharted territory. I have wondered if medication is the missing link for me, although my Neuropsychologist says that my anxiety is too high to do meds. lol LOVE co-morbidity. Said no one, ever. Anyways, I’m so happy you responded. You give me a lot of hope that after this pregnancy (my 3rd, but my older to will be 8 and 10) I will find a way to manage my life while breastfeeding. Something that is super important to me to do again.

  2. i, like you, have been battling this question! i’m still nursing my 1 year old 3 times a day. i am usually able to manage my ADD with rhythms and routines quite well. my husband and i have a 7 year old, 2 year old, and 1 year old and just recently moved, and added a new job -i’m finding that my little world is falling a part and i seem to keep failing at the management of it all. i’m a joyful, motivated woman; however, i am finding myself overwhelmed, anxious, and mildly depressed. i would hate to give up nursing right now. this is my last baby and i’m not in any hurry to give up that precious snuggly moment with her. such little research on the matter. i have taken strattera in the past. mostly in college and it was tremendously helpful. this is a time in my life when the medication will most certainly help.

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