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Medications & Breastfeeding

Medications that make you sleepy can affect you and how you care for your baby. You may need help from others during this time.

Frequently Asked Questions:

Can I use any over-the-counter medications if I am breastfeeding?
There are many over-the-counter medications that are safe to use during breastfeeding. Always check with your doctor or a pharmacist before taking over-the-counter medications like pain relievers, cold medicines, vitamins and herbs.

Can I take any prescription medication?Many medications are safe to take when breastfeeding.
  • Remind your doctor that you are breastfeeding before he prescribes any medication
  • Be sure to tell your doctor all medications and herbal supplements you are taking
  • If your doctor prescribes a medication that requires you to stop breastfeeding, ask if there is a safer choice
  • Medications and Mothers’ Milk by Thomas Hale, PhD, is a good resource for finding safe medications for breastfeeding mothers; the Physicians Desk Reference (PDR) is NOT a good reference for this purpose
  • A pharmacist, lactation consultant or the breastfeeding coordinator at the health department has information on drug and breastfeeding interactions

What about anesthesia?
Many anesthesias are considered safe. Check with your doctor about other medications that may have been given before you breastfeed. You can usually breastfeed as soon as you are awake and feel up to it.

Can I use birth control?
Breastfeeding women have several birth control options including: condoms, vaginal spermicides, Progestin-only “mini-pills” and Depo-Provera. Contraceptives containing estrogen (pill, patch or ring) tend to decrease milk supply. It is best to wait six weeks after the birth of your baby to take these contraceptives. Discuss your options with your doctor.

What about nicotine?
If a mother smokes cigarettes, she can still breastfeed. Heavy smoking (more than 20 cigarettes a day) can reduce a mother’s milk supply and has been known to cause symptoms in the breastfed baby. Avoid smoking immediately before or during breastfeeding or anywhere around the baby. It is best to smoke outside and away from the baby.

Can I drink alcohol while breastfeeding?
Alcohol fits in the category of foods to avoid. A safe level of alcohol consumption while breastfeeding has not been determined. It is best not to drink while breastfeeding. If you do drink, do this after breastfeeding or wait to breastfeed at least one hour for each drink you have. Limit alcohol to only an occasional drink while you are breastfeeding. 

Breastfeeding and Common Medications 

Source: Medications and Mothers’ Milk by Thomas Hale, PhD

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Alton, Illinois 62002

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