Zoloft for depression

I am breastfeeding my four-month-old son and started taking Zoloft two weeks ago for postpartum depression. So far, my baby does not seem to be affected by the drug. It has helped me a lot, but I am concerned about any long-term effects on my baby. Do you have any information on Zoloft and breastfeeding moms?

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Debbi Donovan

Debbi Donovan is a Board Certified Lactation Consultant, as well as a retired La Leche League Leader. For more than a decade, Debbi... Read more

Depression occurs in approximately 10 percent of all mothers in the early postpartum period. Many nursing mothers avoid pharmacological treatment of their depression, either because they are worried about the effect of a drug on their nursing baby, or their Health Care Provider has refused to prescribe the medication for a nursing mother.

Zoloft (sertraline) is a selective serotonin reuptake inhibitor (SSRI). A paper published in the Journal of Clinical Psychiatry, Breastfeeding and Sertraline: A 24 hr Analysis, 56:6, p 243, 1995, found that although this drug is secreted into breastmilk in concentrations equivalent to those in the mother's bloodstream, plasma levels in the nursing infant remained too low to be detected..

When considering the use of medications to treat depression in the nursing mother, it is important to keep in mind the alternatives. Untreated depression can very negatively impact the mother-child relationship, as well as other relationships within the family. Weaning from the breast, and feeding artificially, will deny the baby his mother's milk, which is so important to him nutritionally and immunologically. Jack Newman, MD,founder and director of the Breastfeeding Clinic at the Hospital for Sick Children in Toronto, states that "it is rare for the risk of breastfeeding (with added sertraline...) to outweigh the risk of formula."

I am glad to hear Zoloft is working so well for you. My very best wishes in continuing to successfully treat your depression.

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