Guest Post by Katy Fleming, MA, LPC, BSN, RN
Breastfeeding is challenging for many new mothers, especially during cold and flu season. On top of ensuring that your little one is latched and fed, you’re fighting sneezing, coughing, headaches, a runny nose, and more.
It’s important to learn how the substances that you’re consuming are affecting your breastfed infant.
Let’s review safety tips on cold medicine when you’re breastfeeding.
What Kind of Cold Medicine Should You Avoid When Breastfeeding?
Most medications do pass through to the infant when breastfeeding but have little to no effect on the baby. However, certain cold medications may impact your milk supply and baby in different ways.
Listed below are categories of cold medicines and up-to-date recommendations for nursing mothers.
Common decongestants such as Sudafed are used for nasal congestion. These medications relieve your stuffy nose by narrowing the blood vessels.
Although considered safe for your baby, the constricted blood vessels may lead to a decreased milk supply. Another important note— decongestants cause irritability in some infants.
Nasal decongestant sprays are considered a safer alternative as they directly affect the nasal passages and minimize absorption.
Antihistamines are typically used to fight allergies and colds. Benadryl, a common antihistamine, can also decrease your milk supply. Drowsiness is a common side effect of many antihistamines and may lead to an overly sleepy baby.
Consider non-drowsy options such as Claritin and Allegra to minimize the effect on your child.
Generally considered safe to use when breastfeeding, however, there isn’t significant research on lozenges. Nevertheless, most medical professionals permit breastfeeding mothers to use lozenges with or without menthol. Just always be sure to read the ingredient list!
Dextromethorphan, a cough suppressant, helps temporarily lessen that nagging cough. These drugs, also known as antitussives, work by decreasing activity in the brain that’s causing coughing.
A very low amount is found in breast milk and Dextromethorphan is considered safe for breastfeeding mothers.
In addition to a stuffy nose and cough, you may struggle with aches and pains during this cold and flu season. Tylenol and Ibuprofen are considered safe to use when breastfeeding. You can utilize these for both pain and fever. Ibuprofen helps with inflammation, as well.
Aspirin is safe in low doses, however, can lead to serious side effects in high doses such as bleeding.
In 2019, the FDA issued a warning for breastfeeding mothers using codeine. Sometimes found in cold medicines, codeine is an opioid pain medication that can cause an overdose in babies including death. Typical symptoms of an overdose are increased drowsiness, difficulty breathing, and limpness in your baby.
Seek immediate medical attention if your infant exhibits any of these symptoms.
Vitamin C is permitted for nursing mothers as a preventative supplement for cold and flu season. Be sure to take the recommended dosage and do not exceed 2000 mg per day.
—> Avoid any medications with high alcohol content such as nighttime relief medicines.
—> Avoid multi-symptom medications to minimize unnecessary exposure of ingredients to your child.
—> Timing is key! Consider if it’s possible to take your cold medicine immediately after your baby’s feeding to limit exposure.
—> Always ensure to wash your hands regularly and consistently disinfect high-touched areas.
When you’re battling a cold or the flu, continue to breastfeed as normal, if possible. Your breast milk will provide important antibodies to your baby to prevent and fight off illness.
In general, try to utilize the lowest dose needed for your symptoms. As discussed, nasal sprays are a safer option when breastfeeding than tablets.
If you’re curious about other medications, LactMed is a comprehensive database of compatible medications with breastfeeding.
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As a licensed counselor and registered nurse, Katy approaches freelance writing with years of experience and a unique perspective. Alongside her partner, Katy loves to travel the world and embrace other cultures from volcanoes in Iceland to villages in India.