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Nursing moms, breastfeeding is a beautiful opportunity to bond with your baby. It creates a unique connection between your health and that of your baby. Everything you eat or drink, you share with your little one. No wonder you will be concerned about what medicine you can take while breastfeeding and which ones you should avoid. Because you are only human and will fall ill once in a while.
As long as you listen and follow your doctor’s instructions, your baby will not suffer adverse effects from the medicines. However, this does not mean that you can pop every pill and supplement you would have taken before childbirth. In fact, some medicines are completely out of bounds while breastfeeding.
Here is an in-depth guide to help you decide which medications you can or cannot take while breastfeeding.
Medical Disclaimer: This article is intended for informational purposes only. We are not giving personalized medical advice. Do not rely on our blog for medical decisions. Always ask for help from a qualified medical professional.
First of All, Do All Medicines Pass into Breast Milk?
Almost everything you take orally that gets into your bloodstream will pass into your breast milk, including medicines. Most do so at low levels and will pose no real risk to your baby. Nevertheless, there are a few exceptions where drugs can become concentrated in breast milk. As a result, analyze every medication individually.
Related Read: Tips About Breastfeeding- A Full Guide
General considerations for over the counter medications
While breastfeeding, I am sure some of you have heard or have been told to avoid taking medications.
How practical is this? This is true for some medications, but not all.
If you fall ill while breastfeeding, it is not a reason for you to suffer in silence. By all means, speak to your doctor and get help.
I also know you are concerned about how the medicines may affect your little one. Rest assured that there are varieties of safe options available to you and your baby.
Below are a few things your doctor considers when prescribing medications for you while breastfeeding:
- Your baby’s age?
- How will the drug you are taking affect you?
- What amount of the drug will pass through your breast milk?
- What effect will the medicine have on your baby?
- Will it affect your milk supply?
Remember, always follow your doctor’s orders and ask questions whenever you feel stuck and are not sure you are doing the right thing. That way you can avoid having to stop breastfeeding cold turkey.
What allergy medicine can I take while breastfeeding?
Seasonal allergies are not life-threatening, but they can be troublesome for breastfeeding mothers.
When it comes to allergy medicine, the non-drowsy ones are better with minimal effects on your baby if you are breastfeeding.
For treating allergies, Antihistamines are the recommended drugs.
Examples of Allergy Medicine:
Antihistamines are usually divided into 2 groups, the ones that make you feel drowsy and the non-drowsy ones.
- Zyrtec (cetirizine)
- Piriton (chlorpheniramine)
- Benadryl (diphenhydramine)
- Sudafed (pseudoephedrine). A single dose of Sudafed can affect your breast milk supply
How Allergy Meds Can Affect Your Baby or Supply
Some scientific studies reported reduced prolactin levels with high doses of dexchlorpheniramine.
The best way to look at antihistamines is to consider their effect when you take them. Because they pass through breastmilk, the sedating ones can affect your baby, making her sleepy, irritable, and even colicky.
Remember to always speak to your doctor before taking any medications while breastfeeding. This will help reduce the risks of complications.
What sinus medication can I take while breastfeeding?
Dealing with a stuffy nose and clogged sinuses is no fun when you have a sinus infection. A cheap and effective way of easing congestion and can be used frequently is steam inhalation (such as a Nettie pot).
If this does not help, your doctor will prescribe medicines to treat the cause of the infection, which may be viral, fungal, or bacterial.
Examples of medicines to treat a sinus infections
- Saline nasal sprays.
- Over-the-counter (OTC) Decongestants are usually prescribed for sinus infections.
- Nasal sprays are preferred over oral ones because they do not affect your milk supply. Flonase, Nasacort, and Afrin (oxymetazoline) relieve sinus pressure and congestion. They treat sneezing, itching, and runny nose caused by seasonal allergies.
- Acetaminophen (Tylenol) or ibuprofen (Advil) are safe for pain relief in a sinus infection.
- Antibiotics treat bacterial sinus infections.
Your doctor will suggest the timing and dose of the medicine with minimal side effects for your baby.
What medicine can I take for diarrhea while breastfeeding?
No one likes to deal with diarrhea, the loose and watery stools, the urgency to go to the bathroom, and cramps.
As a breastfeeding mother, you will experience diarrhea at some point. Diarrhea can happen because of:
- allergies to certain foods
- foods that upset the digestive system
- bacterial or other kinds of infections
- some medications
Loperamide (Imodium) is the drug for relieving diarrheal symptoms. Usually taken after each loose bowel motion.
What Diarrhea Can Do To Your Milk Supply
You can take it while breastfeeding because absorption from the gut is poor, and only small amounts enter your breastmilk.
Also, remember to stay hydrated. Drink lots of liquids, like water, broth, and sports drinks (you need the electrolytes!). This will prevent dehydration. As much as you can, stay away from alcohol and caffeine, including coffee, chocolate, some sodas, and certain teas. Because they are natural diuretics and cause you to lose even more fluids.
And if you are wondering if you can continue breastfeeding when you have diarrhea? The answer is Yes, you should! Diarrhea is not a contraindication to breastfeeding.
Remember that exclusive breastfeeding can also protect your baby against diarrhea.
What medicine can I take for a sore throat while breastfeeding?
As its name implies, a sore throat is pain or irritation in the throat and may be a symptom of a viral or bacterial infection.
If you have a sore throat, you should still breastfeed your baby. Doing so will pass on antibodies. They are like soldiers that fight infections in your baby’s body.
When your doctor knows the cause of your sore throat, he can prescribe medicines to treat it.
Examples of Medications to Treat a Sore Throat
Unless you are at risk of a severe infection, antibiotics may not be necessary to treat a sore throat. Medicines you can take while breastfeeding include:
- Paracetamol or ibuprofen for relief from fever and minor aches. They are safe for treating a sore throat while breastfeeding.
- Anesthetic throat sweets or throat sprays containing Cepacol, Menthol, and Benzocaine. Too much menthol tends to reduce milk supply, so use them sparingly. Throat rinses can also be helpful.
- Lozenges containing dyclonine are better than those with phenol.
- Delsym, Robitussin, and Benylin are compatible with breastfeeding. However, it is better to check for active ingredients before using them.
- If you need antibiotics or allergy medicines, your doctor can prescribe them.
Always talk to your doctor before taking any medicines during breastfeeding.
What medicine can I take for headaches, fever, and pains while breastfeeding?
Breastfeeding your baby does not make you immune to falling sick. So once in a while, you may come down with a headache, fever, and pains.
You have many options for medicines you can take while breastfeeding that are safe for your baby.
Examples of medicines for headaches, fever, and pains
- Acetaminophen is a good choice for breastfeeding mothers. The amount in your breastmilk is much less than the dose usually given to babies. Adverse effects in breastfed infants are rare and do not affect your milk supply. As long as you take them as prescribed by your doctor.
You will see brand names like Panadol, Tylenol, and Panamax.
Creams and sprays for muscle pain are also safe to use.
- You can take ibuprofen or use it on your skin while breastfeeding. It is one of the painkillers usually recommended if you are breastfeeding. Only tiny amounts get into breast milk, and it is unlikely to cause side effects in your baby.
Ibuprofen eases uterine contractions and discomfort related to a C-section.
Additionally, it is helpful with the pain of engorged breasts, plugged milk ducts, mastitis, and sore nipples.
What medicine can I take for gas while breastfeeding?
Did you know that sometimes your healthy diet may cause you to be gassy? Veggies like beans, broccoli, cabbage, and Brussels sprouts are quite the notorious bunch. Too much processed food (i.e. in packaging) can also have the same effect.
Also, you may experience some postpartum bloating because of fluctuating hormones after childbirth, lack of sleep, and the stress of having a new baby to care for.
An example of medicine for relieving gas is:
- Simethicone is the recommended drug for relieving gas and bloating. Absorption is not oral. It only works in your gut and does not get into your blood. So, it is safe to take if you are breastfeeding because it does not get into your breast milk.
Even your baby’s pediatrician can prescribe the drug for her if necessary.
Brands like Gas-X, Maalox, and Mylanta, work pretty well.
You can also try natural remedies and tricks for gas as well- such as ginger tea and avoiding chewing gum and straws.
Related Read: Top 10 Foods To Increase Milk Supply
What antibiotics can I take while breastfeeding?
Antibiotics are less prescribed to breastfeeding mothers because they get into breast milk.
Choosing an antibiotic to treat any condition depends on the organism likely to cause it.
There are different classes of antibiotics, and it can be tricky to know which ones are safe and will not affect your baby.
In most cases, if your baby can take a particular antibiotic, then it is safe to take while breastfeeding.
I am sure I sound like a broken record but always speak to your doctor or baby’s pediatrician before taking any medications.
Here are a few examples of antibiotics that are safe to take while breastfeeding;
- Amoxycillin, Amoxil
- Azithromycin, Zithromax
- Cefaclor, Distaclor
- Cefuroxime, Zinnat
- Cephalexin, Cefalexin, Keflex
Can you take aspirin while breastfeeding?
Your doctor might prescribe low-dose aspirin if you have certain medical conditions while breastfeeding.
Aspirin is medicine for relieving fever, minor aches, and pains. It is also used for treating and preventing heart attacks, strokes, and chest pain because it helps to prevent blood clots.
Aspirin passes into breast milk in small amounts and will unlikely cause any side effects in your baby.
So, the occasional use of low-dose aspirin (75 mg daily to below 300 mg daily) may be safe while breastfeeding.
The amount of salicylic acid excreted into breast milk is more with higher doses. This could lower your baby’s ability to clot blood (leading to easier bruising or bleeding).
You are better off taking either paracetamol or ibuprofen.
Aspirin leaves a baby’s body more slowly than it does from an adult, so its levels could build up over time with prolonged use.
Reye’s syndrome is associated with its use in infants with viral infections. So care should be taken if your baby is not feeling well and you take aspirin.
Can you take Zofran while breastfeeding?
If you are wondering if you can take Zofran while breastfeeding, the answer is yes!
A small percentage of you may experience nausea during a breastfeeding session in the early weeks after childbirth.
Oxytocin is the culprit, also called the love hormone. It plays a unique role in the bonding period between you and your baby.
Oxytocin moves your milk from the ducts in your breasts to the nipple (milk let-down). It also eases digestion. But when it interacts with other hormones in your gut, it may be responsible for causing nausea.
It goes away for most moms by the end of the 6th-8th week.
Zofran (Ondansetron) is used for nausea during and after a cesarean section. It is usually given intravenously.
Your doctor can also prescribe Zofran to your baby from 1-month-old if necessary. Its amounts in milk are much less than the dose given to babies. No adverse effects have been reported with its use.
If your doctor gave you Zofran during or after a cesarean section, it does not affect how soon you can start breastfeeding. By all means, let the bonding session begin.
Related read: Best Nursing Sports Bras
Can you take Midol while breastfeeding?
I do not think we can talk about having a baby without mentioning pain?
So a lot of pain medications will be featured in this article.
Midol, a popular pain reliever that people take to ease period cramps, and bloating, might be top of your mind after childbirth.
Experts say it is safe to take while breastfeeding, but you should look out for the following.
Midol contains three active ingredients:
- Acetaminophen to relieve pains
- Caffeine to rid your body of excess water
- Pyrilamine maleate is an antihistamine used in cold medications to cause drowsiness
Taking Midol occasionally most likely will not do anything to your baby. If you must take it right after breastfeeding and reduce your daily dose.
Higher doses of Midol can cause your baby to become more irritable, jumpy or hyper, and unable to sleep. This could be because of the caffeine and antihistamine in Midol.
Your doctor can prescribe safer medicines while you breastfeed.
Can you take birth control pills while breastfeeding?
If you choose to exclusively breastfeed your baby, you may enjoy some natural family planning called Lactational Amenorrhea.
But this method is not foolproof. So, if you are wondering what birth control pill you can take while breastfeeding, then sit tightly to find out more.
- The mini-pills are birth control pills that use only progestin. They are very effective as long as you take them around the same time each day or night.
These pills are safe to take while breastfeeding. Even though some progestin crosses over into breast milk, no harmful effects in babies have been reported.
Also, you may or may not see an increase in your milk supply while using this method.
- The combined pills use a combination of hormones containing estrogen. Again, the estrogen does cross into breast milk, but harmful effects have not been seen in babies. The harm here lies in your milk supply.
Many moms taking combination-type pills see a marked decrease in milk, which could sabotage breastfeeding.
So, it is not recommended that breastfeeding mothers use these or other similar ones.
Overall, the best birth control choice for breastfeeding mothers is not one of these hormonal methods. But if you must choose between the two types, you and your child would be better off if you chose a progestin-only pill.
Can you take supplements while breastfeeding?
Having a baby may change your taste buds, making you not fancy nutritious foods that will benefit you and your baby. (Check out these yummy nutritious snacks for some inspiration.)
So, if you do not meet your nutritional needs while you breastfeed, your doctor may prescribe multivitamins. (Plus, many recommend staying on a prenatal vitamin postpartum.)
But when it comes to herbal supplements, teas and potions, that is an entirely different cup of tea (pun intended).
Herbal products may be natural, but that does not necessarily make them safe. Most herbal supplements have not been well researched in breastfeeding mothers. So experts do not know the effects or risks it may have on babies.
Unlike medications, the Food and Drug Administration (FDA) does not require supplements to be tested or proven safe.
If you must take a herbal supplement, consider taking the smallest possible dose. And keep an eye for any side effects on your baby.
Here are some of the most common supplements that you can take while breastfeeding:
- Most mineral supplements like iron, calcium, copper, chromium, and zinc. These do not affect breast milk levels.
- Water-soluble vitamin supplements like vitamin B and vitamin C usually increase breastmilk levels.
- Fat-soluble vitamin supplements like A & E can concentrate in your breast milk, so taking them in large doses may not be safe for your baby.
Always speak to your doctors about any medicines or supplements you plan on taking.
Related Read: Best Nipple Shields for Breastfeeding Moms
Drugs that are not safe for breastfeeding moms
Some drugs are off-limits while you are breastfeeding. But, if you must take them, your doctor will supervise you.
Examples of the medications that may not be safe if you are breastfeeding:
• Antibiotics: tetracycline can cause tooth discoloration in children.
• Blood pressure medicines, such as ACE inhibitors and beta-blockers, pass into your breastmilk and lower your baby’s blood pressure.
• Diuretics may increase the amount of urine your baby passes and lead to dehydration.
• Chemotherapy drugs can pass into breast milk and harm your baby.
Mama, life does not stop when you are breastfeeding. Sickness can spring upon you without any notice, and you may need to take medications. Take care of yourself and keep baby close by in their bassinet.
Do you find yourself asking what medicine is safe while breastfeeding? If so, you are not alone.
Even if you are sick with any communicable disease like the flu or COVID-19, you should still continue breastfeeding. It helps your baby build immunity more than anything else.
Having said that, always check with your doctor before starting any new medication while breastfeeding.