Skip to Content

Medicine Use While Breast-Feeding

Topic Overview

Prescription and nonprescription medications

Talk to your doctor before taking any prescription or nonprescription medicine while breast-feeding. Some medicines that enter the breast milk may harm your baby. But many medicines are safe to use while breast-feeding, including certain pain relievers, antibiotics, antidepressants, anticoagulants, and endocrine medicines (such as insulin). Consider the following before taking medicines while breast-feeding:

  • Use the safest medicine available. Some medicines have alternatives that are safer for breast-feeding mothers. Ask for the medicine that produces the lowest, safest levels of the drug in breast milk.
  • Avoid using long-acting forms of nonprescription medicines. Medicine levels may build up quickly in the infant.
  • Ask your doctor or pharmacist about the best time to take your medicine to minimize the effect on your baby. This is often just after a feeding.
  • Watch for medicine side effects in your infant. Tell your doctor about any fussiness, rash, changes in feeding or sleeping patterns, or other concerns.

Talk to your doctor about temporarily discontinuing breast-feeding if you must take a medicine that is not safe for your baby. If you are going to take this medicine in a single dose or for a relatively short time (1 or 2 weeks), bottle-feed formula to your baby, but keep up your milk supply by pumping your breasts and discarding the milk. When the medicine has left your system, you can go back to breast-feeding your baby.

Alternative remedies

Although domperidone is available in some countries for intestinal problems, this medicine is not approved for any use in the United States. Domperidone can increase a breast-feeding woman's milk supply. For this reason, some women obtain the medicine. The U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA) warns breast-feeding women not to take domperidone because of its potential dangerous side effects (such as irregular heartbeat and sudden death). Also, the drug has unknown effects on the breast-feeding infant.1

Some breast-feeding women try herbal remedies for problems, such as to increase milk supply. Common herbs used for these purposes include fenugreek, fennel, or various herbal teas. As with any medicines, do not take herbs without first talking with your doctor. The effects of most herbal remedies on babies are unknown. Some experts advise that some herbs (including fenugreek, fennel, comfrey leaf, and borage) may harm the baby. Herbs may also cause allergic reactions in the mother or the baby.

With herbal teas or preparations, even more caution is needed, because the strength of an herbal tea or product depends upon how it is prepared. The actual amount of an herb consumed is very hard to predict or study.

References

Citations

  1. U.S Food and Drug Administration (2004). FDA warns against women using unapproved drug, domperidone, to increase milk production. FDA Talk Paper T04-17. Available online: http://www.fda.gov/Drugs/DrugSafety/InformationbyDrugClass/ucm173886.htm.

Credits

By Healthwise Staff
Sarah Marshall, MD - Family Medicine
Kirtly Jones, MD - Obstetrics and Gynecology
Last Revised April 12, 2013

This information does not replace the advice of a doctor. Healthwise, Incorporated disclaims any warranty or liability for your use of this information. Your use of this information means that you agree to the Terms of Use. How this information was developed to help you make better health decisions.

© 1995-2014 Healthwise, Incorporated. Healthwise, Healthwise for every health decision, and the Healthwise logo are trademarks of Healthwise, Incorporated.

Decision Points

Our interactive Decision Points guide you through making key health decisions by combining medical information with your personal information.

You'll find Decision Points to help you answer questions about:

Interactive Tools

Get started learning more about your health!

Our Interactive Tools can help you make smart decisions for a healthier life. You'll find personal calculators and tools for health and fitness, lifestyle checkups, and pregnancy.

Symptom Checker

Feeling under the weather?

Use our interactive symptom checker to evaluate your symptoms and determine appropriate action or treatment.

Connect With CentraCare