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Q&A: Which medicines are safe?

What cold medicines can I take while breastfeeding?

Re: What cold medicines can I take while breastfeeding?

The Bump Expert

When you're looking for an over-the-counter cold remedy, check the active ingredients to help determine the safety level for baby, and avoid meds with a high alcohol content (like NyQuil). If your doctor is prescribing a medicine, always remember to mention that you are breastfeeding.

Here are the stats on a few popular cold medications:

DRUG AAP APPROVED? NOTES/POTENTIAL EFFECTS

Pseudoephedrine yes decreased milk supply; irritable infants

Guaifenesin not listed not studied, but given to infants directly

Dextromethorphan not listed not studied, but given to infants directly

Acetaminophen yes most experts say it's safe

Dexbrompheniramine yes large doses could cause lowered milk supply

Chlorpheniramine yes large doses could cause lowered milk supply

Ibuprofen yes most experts say it's safe

Most cold meds are considered pretty safe while breastfeeding, but since they do enter your milk in small quantities, it's better to take them just after you've nursed to limit baby’s exposure. Also, go for short-acting versions rather than time-release or once-a-day meds. (The long-lasting kinds are tougher for baby to metabolize.)

In general, throat sprays, lozenges, and cough drops are considered safe. Just steer clear of chomping on lots of drops that contain menthol -- it can reduce your milk supply.

And whatever you do…keep breastfeeding. Never stop breastfeeding because of a cold -- your breast milk passes antibodies to baby, serving as his best defense against catching your illness.

Jack Newman, MD, FRCPC

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