Medications and Breastfeeding: How to Protect Your Child

Most medications are safe for use when breastfeeding. Remember that the risk during pregnancy is not the same when breastfeeding. However, some medications may be harmful to your breastfeeding-child if ingested, therefore, it is important for all breastfeeding mothers to inform their child’s pediatrician about all of the medications they are taking, including any Over-the-Counter medications and herbal supplements.

The most common products of concern include pain medications, antidepressants, and drugs to treat substance/alcohol abuse or smoking cessation.

Below are tips for breastfeeding mothers to protect their children:

General Considerations:

  • Since medications take a while to enter your blood stream, try taking medications at time of or right after breastfeeding (depending on medication schedule).
  • You can “pump and dump”: If you are taking medications, such as antibiotics, you may want to pump the breastmilk with a breastpump and dump it at regular feeding times and give your baby previously pumped milk that is medication-free. This method helps to maintain your milk supply while you wait for the medications to leave your system.
  • Monitor your baby for any unusual signs and symptoms such as: excessive sleepiness, irritability, or any other abnormal behavior. If you notice any change in your baby’s behavior, contact his or her doctor.
  • Talk with your pharmacist and doctor about alternative medication options that will expose your baby to the least amount of medication, such as a topical cream or ointment.

Over-the-Counter Medications:

  • Avoid medications that have pseudoephedrine (Sudofed®) and diphenhydramine (Benadryl®) in them because they can decrease milk supply. Before purchasing combination products, pay careful attention to the active ingredients.
  • If you need to take an antihistamine, loratadine (Claritin®) and fexofenadine (Allegra™) are safer options.
  • Be sure to read the medication label carefully before taking over the counter medications while breastfeeding. If you have any questions, do not hesitate to ask your pharmacist or doctor.
  • Ask your pharmacist or doctor before taking any herbals or supplements.


Pain Medications:

  • Acetaminophen (Tylenol®) and ibuprofen (Motrin®) are safe in breastfeeding mothers.
  • It is recommended that breastfeeding mothers avoid high dose aspirin or avoid breastfeeding for 1 to 2 hours after a dose.

Prepared by Serena Barden, MCV/VCU PharmD Candidate 2016
Adapted from: American Academy of Pediatrics: “Breastfeeding and Medication”

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