Breastfeeding and epilepsy

Information for women with epilepsy about breastfeeding including concerns about passing medication to the baby.

The Department of Health recommends that every woman is encouraged to breastfeed her baby if at all possible. Breastmilk usually provides all the nutrients a baby needs for the first six months of their life.

AEDs and breastfeeding

If you take anti-epileptic drugs (AEDs), your baby will have become used to the drugs while in your womb. If you decide to breastfeed, then a small amount will be passed to your baby in your breastmilk. Breastfeeding can be a useful way of weaning your baby off the medication that they have become used to.

Some drugs, such as phenobarbital and primidone, can pass more easily into breastmilk and can make a baby sleepy, so it may be a good idea to alternate between formula milk and breastfeeds. 

The patient information leaflet that comes with your AED often includes information about breastfeeding and that particular drug. You can also talk to your neurologist, midwife, or health visitor about any concerns you may have.

The Breastfeeding Network has a helpline run by pharmacists on a voluntary basis. You may have to leave a message so that they can call you back.

Sharing feeds

If you are more likely to have seizures when you are overtired, sharing night time feeds with a partner might help to increase the chance of a good night’s sleep. 

What’s next?

See parenting and epilepsy for ideas about keeping you and baby safe if you have seizures.

Information produced: April 2021

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Sodium valproate

Sodium valproate is an epilepsy drug prescribed for all seizure types including absence, myoclonus and tonic clonic seizures. It is also prescribed to a lesser degree for bipolar disorders. It is known under different brand names including Epilim, Epival, Episenta and Convulex.

New regulations have been introduced by the Medicines and Healthcare products Regulatory Agency (MHRA) around the way in which the drug is prescribed to women and girls of childbearing age. Sodium valproate is associated with risks for babies exposed to the drug during pregnancy.

Valproate organisations

The following groups have been set up by patients to help women who have children affected by valproate during pregnancy:

FACS-aware - 07739 411 373
FACS Association - 01253 799 161
OACS - 07904 200 364

Parenting and epilepsy

If your seizures (or your partner’s) are controlled, then epilepsy may not affect how you look after your child. However, parents who have seizures may find taking extra safety measures helpful. This depends on the type of seizures and the activity involved.

Want to know more?

Download our pregnancy and parenting leaflet:

Download the PDF