Use Medications Safely While Breastfeeding

Use Medications Safely While Breastfeeding

If you’re breastfeeding, you’re giving your baby a healthy start. But, if you need to take medications, you might have questions about how they may affect your breast milk.

The good news is many medications are safe to use when you breastfeed, but it’s still important to talk to your doctor before taking any prescription or nonprescription medication.

“Pain relievers like acetaminophen and ibuprofen are safe to use while breastfeeding. Many cold and flu medicines, antibiotics, antidepressants, and diabetes medicines, like insulin, are usually fine, but it is always important to let your doctor know you are breastfeeding, so medications are prescribed safely,” said Dr. Charity Karpac, a primary care physician at St. Joseph Health Primary Care Austin’s Colony. “Decongestants with pseudoephedrine are safe to use, but they can reduce breast milk supply.”

Medications like codeine or tramadol can be harmful to your baby, and it’s important to avoid pain medication that can contain these ingredients.

Dr. Karpac recommends taking the following precautions while breastfeeding:

  • Some medications have alternatives that are safer for breastfeeding mothers. Talk to your doctor to find the medication that produces the lowest, safest levels of the drug in breast milk.

  • Avoid using long-action forms of medicines. Medicine levels can build up quickly in babies.

  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the best time to take your medicine to minimize the effect on your baby.

  • Watch for medicine side effects in your infant. Tell your doctor about any fussiness, rash, changes in feeding or sleeping patterns, or other concerns.

“If you must take medicine that is not safe for your baby, and there is no safe alternative, talk to your doctor about temporarily discontinuing breastfeeding,” said Dr. Karpac. “If you are going to take the medicine in a single dose or for a short time, bottle-feed previously expressed breast milk or formula to your baby, but keep up your milk supply by pumping your breasts and discarding the milk while taking the medication.” When the medicine has left your system, you can return to breastfeeding your baby.

Many breastfeeding mothers try herbal remedies for a variety of problems, such as to increase milk supply. “As with any medicine,” says Dr. Karpac, “do not take herbs without talking with your doctor. The effects of most herbal remedies on babies are unknown.”

As we observe National Breastfeeding Month, we encourage you to connect with your primary care physician for breastfeeding support and any questions you may have. We can provide the resources you need to support you and your baby’s health and wellness.


The Mayo Clinic

United States Breastfeeding Committee

Charity A. Karpac, MD, MPH

Internal Medicine-Pediatrics

St. Joseph Family Medicine - Austin’s Colony

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