Maternal Buprenorphine Maintenance and Lactation

J Hum Lact. 2016 Nov;32(4):675-681. doi: 10.1177/0890334416663198. Epub 2016 Sep 26.


Background: In addition to the well-known benefits of human milk and breastfeeding for the mother and infant, breastfeeding may mitigate neonatal abstinence syndrome severity in prenatally opioid-exposed infants. However, lack of conclusive data regarding the extent of the presence of buprenorphine and active metabolites in human milk makes the recommendation of breastfeeding for buprenorphine-maintained women difficult for many providers.

Objective: This study seeks to determine the concentrations of buprenorphine and its active metabolites (norbuprenorphine, buprenorphine-glucuronide, and norbuprenorphine-glucuronide) in human milk, maternal plasma, and infant plasma of buprenorphine-maintained women and their infants.

Methods: Up to 10 buprenorphine-maintained women provided paired breast milk and plasma samples at 2, 3, 4, 14, and 30 days postdelivery, and 9 infants provided plasma samples on day 14 of life. All samples were analyzed via liquid chromatography tandem mass spectrometry to determine concentrations of buprenorphine, norbuprenorphine, buprenorphine-glucuronide, and norbuprenorphine-glucuronide by a fully validated method.

Results: Concentrations of buprenorphine and metabolites are low in human milk and maternal plasma. Breastfed infant plasma concentrations of buprenorphine were low or undetectable and metabolite concentrations undetectable at 14 days of infant age. There were significant correlations between maternal buprenorphine dose and maternal plasma and human milk buprenorphine concentrations.

Conclusion: These data find low concentrations of buprenorphine and metabolites in human milk and lend support to the recommendation for lactation among stable buprenorphine-maintained women. However, the correlation between maternal dose and maternal plasma and human milk buprenorphine concentrations bears further study.

Keywords: breastfeeding; chemically dependent women; drug-exposed infants; substance abuse.

MeSH terms

  • Adult
  • Analgesics, Opioid / adverse effects*
  • Analgesics, Opioid / therapeutic use
  • Breast Feeding / methods*
  • Buprenorphine / adverse effects*
  • Buprenorphine / pharmacology
  • Buprenorphine / therapeutic use
  • Female
  • Humans
  • Lactation / metabolism*
  • Milk, Human / chemistry
  • Mothers / psychology
  • Mothers / statistics & numerical data


  • Analgesics, Opioid
  • Buprenorphine