Cold Medicines while Breastfeeding

Archived Q&A and Reviews

Can someone tell me what they have been told about taking cold medicine while breastfeeding. I am about to go out of my mind, but don't want to take anything if it passes through to the milk. Hopefully, by the time I get advice I will be better. At least I will have the info. for next time. Thank you.
You did not mention if you were considering an OTC type cold medicine. Please don't use those. I suggest an herbal or homeopathic remedy. For around $25 you can see Henry at Draling Tong Herbs at 10th and Webster (open 7 days a week). He will read your pulses and give you a personalized formula for making a tea. It may even include something to promote milk flow, if you need it. Alternatively, see a homeopath and get a remedy.
Psuedoephedrine (the main ingredient in Sudafed, and also found in infant medications like PediaCare) is fine to take while bfing. Some women claim that it reduces their milk supply somewhat (milk ducts are sinuses, and are therefore affected by the psuedoephedrine). However, I never noticed any differences. This is really a question that should be addressed to your doctor/nurse/midwife, etc. The advice nurses at Children's Hospital are very knowledgeable about bfing issues, I've found. There is a book by Thomas Hale, _Medications and Mother's Milk_, that is very useful for looking for compatibility between bfing and medications. Good luck and I hope you feel better already!
I highly recommend the book The Nursing Mother's Companion, which has a wonderful appendix of drugs safe while breastfeeding. They recommend wherever possible to take single-ingredient drugs to treat the most troublesome symptom, and avoid sustained-release products.

-It is safe to use sore throat lozenges (Sucrets, Chloraseptic).
-Antihistamines can make babies drowsy and even decrease milk flow, so they recommend no more than 2mg chlorpheniramine or 25mg diphenhydramine, for example as a single dose at bedtime.
-My book (older edition) says it is not known whether decongestants pass through milk, but they could make infants fussy. Nasal sprays (Afril) are preferable to oral drugs; if oral, use 30mg or less pseudophedrine.
-They recommend guaiafenesin or dextromethorphan as safe to use as cough medicines.
Hope you get better soon!

While researching dextromethorphan I came across your site. I suggest that you remove this post regarding DXM. This drug has many side effects, and it is not safe for pregnant women! I has been taken off the market in Sweden and I am in the process of having it put behind the counter in the US. Teen's are abusing this drug via cough and cold med's at alarming numbers. Karen
My pediatrician said cold medicine was ok while nursing - just try not to take it right before you nurse so a minimal amount passes through. I I can't remember if she had a particular brand preference.
Most over the counter cold medicines are safe to take while breastfeeding. (Manufacturers won't tell you that because they don't do research on it, and don't want to open themselves up to law suits.) The problem with most cold medicines are that they work by drying your nose up, but they also dry your milk up. To prevent this you have to limit the amount that you take. Sometimes that is enough to get you through the day or night, but sometimes it isn't.

For information about specific medicines you might want to look at the following two books. The Nursing Mother's Companion by Kathleen Huggins, which has a breif section in the back with info on different types of medications grouped by type (antihistamines, anti-depressants, etc.) and gives a brief blurb about how much you can or can't take. The best book is Medications and Mother's Milk by Thomas Hale which lists almost every medicine and some herbs. It gives the scientific info like how much gets into your milk and basically tells you if it is safe.

Call your pediatrician right away, and ask. I have called mine even after hours for this question, especially when my son was less than 6 months. Know the name of the drug you want to take. At my office, Bayside Pediatrics, even the nurses that answer the phone can answer this question for over the counter drugs. I have consulted the doc for my prescription drugs. Most over the counter drugs are OK. When your baby gets your cold, you will probably give her/him the same drug. It also depends how old your baby is, and how much of her/his daily food comes from you. In general, I assume all chemicals can pass through to breast milk, but they get A LOT less than they do when they are in utero. Story: When my baby had a bad cough, his Pediatrician perscribed Codine and something else (this is a great cough suppressent). I was very reluctant to actually give it to my baby, but it did help him get some sleep on one really bad night. However, when I got the same cough, MY doctor would not give me codine because he said it comes through the breast milk, and is not good for the baby. He even would not give it to me after I showed him the perscription for my son. Go figure. I trust the Pediatrician on these issues, they are generally more up to date. My son is 16 months, still gets almost all his milk from me, and has been sick so much (day care baby) that I don't worry about the drugs as much as I did when he was 3 months.