Transfer of antibiotics and their metabolites in human milk: Implications for infant health and microbiota

Pharmacotherapy. 2022 Oct 1. doi: 10.1002/phar.2732. Online ahead of print.


Antibiotics are an essential tool for perinatal care. While antibiotics can play a life-saving role for both parents and infants, they also cause collateral damage to the beneficial bacteria that make up the host gut microbiota. This is especially true for infants, whose developing gut microbiota is uniquely sensitive to antibiotic perturbation. Emerging evidence suggests that disruption of these bacterial populations during this crucial developmental window can have long-term effects on infant health and development. Although most current studies have focused on microbial disruptions caused by direct antibiotic administration to infants or prenatal exposure to antibiotics administered to the mother, little is known about whether antibiotics in human milk may pose similar risks to the infant. This review surveys current data on antibiotic transfer during lactation and highlights new methodologies to assess drug transfer in human milk. Finally, we provide recommendations for future work to ensure antibiotic use in lactating parents is safe and effective for both parents and infants.

Keywords: antibiotics; breastmilk; human milk; metabolomics.

Publication types

  • Review