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As lactating parents know all too well, life doesn’t stop when you’re breastfeeding. So if you come down with a headache or some indigestion, is it safe to take common over-the-counter medications to ease your symptoms?
First and foremost, talk to your doctor or International Board Certified Lactation Consultant before taking any OTC medicine. While less than one percent of the dosage you consume winds up in your breastmilk, there are still precautions to consider. Your well-being is important, but there may be ways to address your aches and pains at a lower risk to your child.
Can you take extra-strength medications while breastfeeding?
Use regular-strength, short-acting medications whenever possible. Short-acting medications exit your body faster than long-acting, extra-strength, or sustained release formulas. If you have your doctor or IBCLC’s safety confirmation, take only as much medicine as you need, and take it immediately after a nursing session so most of it is out of your system by the time your baby is ready to nurse again.
Can you take ibuprofen while breastfeeding?
Ibuprofen (like Advil or Motrin) and acetaminophen (like Tylenol) are generally considered to be low-risk choices. While ibuprofen is not recommended during pregnancy because it can reduce amniotic fluid in the uterus and could disrupt a baby’s blood flow, that’s no longer an issue postpartum.
Can you take Aleve while breastfeeding?
No. Avoid naproxen (Aleve), as it can stay in your system longer than ibuprofen and acetaminophen, and never take any aspirin or aspirin-containing products while breastfeeding or pumping. Due to its blood-thinning properties, aspirin can increase the risk of bleeding in your infant, and it has been linked to Reye’s syndrome, a rare but dangerous condition that causes liver and brain swelling.
Can you take Benadryl while breastfeeding?
The answer is probably not. Decongestants like Sudafed and antihistamines like Allegra, Benadryl, Claritin, and Zyrtec may reduce milk supply. If your doctor or IBCLC does approve your use of a decongestant or antihistamine, double check that you choose a non-drowsy formula.
What about topical creams?
Some of you may be asking: “can you use retinol while breastfeeding?” Unfortunately, using tretinoin (brand name Retin-A) while nursing has not been adequately studied yet, so your doctor or IBCLC will likely advise you against it. In general, however, OTC topical creams are absorbed into the bloodstream and breastmilk in such tiny amounts that your healthcare provider may tell you it’s fine. You’ll just need to be extra careful to wash your hands thoroughly after applying topical medication, and make sure that your baby’s skin doesn’t come into contact with any treated areas.
Can you take birth control while breastfeeding?
It’s generally considered safe for your baby if you start taking birth control about six weeks after giving birth. But birth control pills with high doses of estrogen may decrease milk supply, so discuss your options with your doctor or IBCLC before starting treatment. Progestin-only pills or non-hormonal forms of contraception might be a better choice for you.
Can you take herbal treatments and supplements while breastfeeding?
In the United States, herbal treatments and dietary supplements are not strictly regulated by the FDA, and while they may seem harmless, you or your baby could have an adverse reaction. As always, tell your doctor before you take any herbal treatments or supplements. If you must take a remedy, the same general rules apply as with other OTCs: take the smallest possible dose right after nursing to minimize medication in your breastmilk.
Pay attention to signs of a reaction in your baby
If you notice any differences in your baby’s behavior while taking medication—including loss of appetite, diarrhea, sleepiness, vomiting, rashes, or excessive crying—call your baby’s pediatrician immediately.
Remember to talk to your doctor or IBCLC before taking any OTC medications. They have your best interest and your baby’s in mind, and can help you navigate whatever life throws your way as safely and healthily as possible.