Breastfeeding and Medicine

Safe Medicine while Breastfeeding

Can you take medication while breastfeeding? There are many medications that can be taken during breastfeeding, but there are medications that can cause side-effects in a baby.

This page discusses the safe and unsafe medication while breastfeeding.

Different medications…

  • Most are safe for breastfeeding with no side-effects.
  • Others are safe during breastfeeding, but a mother might have to keep an eye on her baby for some side-effects (mentioned below)
  • Some medication can be taken during breastfeeding, only if there are no other alternative medications and your baby should be monitored for side-effects.
  • There are medications that should be avoided as they may decrease milk supply (especially meds containing pseudo ephedrine, flu medication and contraceptives)
  • Then there are medications that should never be taken. if breastfeeding and these include:

1. Radioactive substances (The mother will need to pump and dump while on these, if she wishes to continue to breastfeed afterwards)

2. Anticancer drugs (antimetabolites).

3. Immunosuppressive and Antineoplastic drugs.

4. Amphetamines.

Things you can do to decrease the amount of any medication in your breast milk

  • Take the medication straight after you have breastfed your baby; this will give the meds a longer time to leave your system before you breastfeed again.
  • Avoid taking any unnecessary medication.
  • Ask your doctor for safer alternative medication.

Some drugs that are known to Decrease milk production:

  • Alcohol.
  • Estrogens (often found in birth control pills).
  • Ergot Alkaloids (Bromocriptine & Cabergoline).
  • Progestogens.
  • Pseudoephedrine. 

Some drugs that are known to Increase milk production:

  • Motilium (Domperidone) This drug is often prescribed to increase milk production. 
  • Reglan (Metoclopramide).
  • Risperidone.
  • Phenothiazine Neuroleptics.

A list of some safe medication while breastfeeding

-    Acetaminophen / paracetamol (Tylenol and Panadol)
-    Ibuprofin (Advil, Nuprin, Motrin)
-    Dextromethorphan (active ingredient in Triaminic, Robitussin, Coricidin.)

A list of medication that is still safe, but not as safe as the above medication

- Selective serotonin reuptake inhibitors (SSRIs) such as Sertraline (Zoloft) and Paroxetine (Paxil).
- Bupivacaine (Marcaine).
- Fentanyl. Aside from being a hundred times more powerful than morphine, Fentanyl is highly addictive, and breastfeeding moms should avoid it if they can.

A list of medication that is only moderately safe while breastfeeding

- Aspirin.
- Codeine.

Medications that is possibly harmful to baby while breastfeeding

- Lithium.

Medication that should never be taken while breastfeeding

- Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors.
- Radioactive isotopes.
- Cocaine.

Safest Alternative Medicine

  • Vapor rub, eucalyptus oil.
  • Saline nasal sprays.
  • Gargle with salt water.
  • Take a multivitamin and extra vitamin C.
  • Rest. Eat and drink well.
  • Use a humidifier.
  • Echinacea is great for boosting your immune system and is safe for breastfeeding mothers.
  • Garlic is a natural antibiotic.
  • Cayenne pepper and nutmeg can help for prevention and treatment of colds. Use on all foods.
  • Fenugreek tea can help for head and chest congestion and even for a cough. Fenugreek also increases milk supply.
  • Slippery elm bark comes in throat lozenges.

Breastfeeding medication symptoms to look out for

  • Baby is more unsettled and fussy than usual.
  • Baby has diarrhea.
  • Baby is not sleeping enough.
  • Your milk supply is starting to dry up.
  • Your milk supply increases (usually if the medication contains prolactin).
  • Always ask your doctor before taking any medications while breastfeeding.

Other specific pages that might be useful to you about Breastfeeding and medicine…

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