Taking Medicine While Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding has many health benefits for you and your baby. While breastfeeding, you may need to take medicines. These can get into your milk and have an effect on your baby. They also can get into your body and affect how much milk you produce. Most medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding, but some are not. This includes over-the-counter medicines, prescriptions, and supplements. Talk to your doctor before taking any medicines.

Path to improved health

The American Academy of Family Physicians (AAFP) recommends that all doctors provide breastfeeding support before and after birth. Tell your doctor about all medicines you take or think you may need to take. They can review the benefits, risks, and possible effects of each medicine. The doctor may approve a medicine or provide an alternate based on your need and your baby’s health and age. If you need to take a medicine that is considered unsafe, your doctor can talk about other options, such as formula.

Similar to when you were pregnant, your doctor should provide a drug list. This often has three categories.

  • Medicine that should be safe to take as normal.
  • Medicine that may be safe to take on occasion (short-term) and/or in a lower dose.
  • Medicine that is not safe and should be avoided.

There may be exceptions based on you and your baby’s health. For instance, some medicines should not be taken if your baby was born premature or has a certain health condition. There also may be different instructions for taking a medicine while breastfeeding. For instance, you may need to take it at a certain time of day. Or you may need to take it after a feeding to give your body more time to process it.

Talk to your doctor about vaccines as well. They will tell you which vaccines are safe and recommended to get while you are breastfeeding.

Things to consider

You can use LactMed®, a drug and lactation database, as a resource. This is maintained by the U.S. National Library of Medicine and the National Institutes of Health. Medicines such as antidepressants, birth controls, and pain relievers are common types that may be unsafe to take. Medicines that contain pseudoephedrine may affect your milk supply. So it is always best to check with your doctor.

When to see the doctor

Watch your baby for any abnormal signs or symptoms. These may include fever, vomiting, diarrhea, rash, or irritability. Keep track if these occur around the time you take certain medicines. Contact your doctor right away with questions or concerns. You also should contact your doctor if your milk supply suddenly changes after starting a medicine.

Questions to ask your doctor

  • What medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding?
  • Can I take certain supplements?
  • What vaccines are safe to get while breastfeeding?
  • How do I know if my baby is reacting to a medicine I am taking?
  • What are my options if I have to take a medicine that is considered unsafe?

Resources

LactMed: Drugs and Lactation Database