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Pregnancy and baby

Breastfeeding and medicines

Most medicines, including those used to treat postnatal depression, can be taken while you're breastfeeding without harming your baby. 

"Small amounts of any drug you take may pass through your breast milk to your baby.

"Generally the amounts are very low and very few drugs are unsafe while you're breastfeeding," says Bridget Halnan, infant feeding lead in Cambridgeshire and Fellow of the Institute of Health Visiting.

"But it's always best to tell your doctor, dentist or pharmacist that you're breastfeeding." 

What medicines can I take while I'm breastfeeding?

Medicines that can be taken while breastfeeding include: 

  • most antibiotics
  • common painkillers, such as paracetamol and ibuprofen – but not aspirin
  • asthma inhalers 
  • vitamins – but only at the recommended dose

You can use some methods of contraception and some cold remedies, but not all.

Always check with your GP, midwife, health visitor or pharmacist, who can advise you.

It's fine to have dental treatments, local anaesthetics, vaccinations – including MMR, tetanus and flu injections – and most operations. 

Is there anything I can't take while I'm breastfeeding?

Common drugs that aren't recommended when you're breastfeeding include:

  • codeine phosphate – used to control diarrhoea
  • nasal decongestants – but simple salt water drops are fine
  • aspirin for pain relief – although you can take it if your GP prescribes it for you as an anti-platelet drug

Talk to you GP or pharmacist before taking antihistamines for allergies or allergy-related conditions, such as hay fever.

For more information: 

  • talk to your midwife, health visitor, pharmacist or GP
  • go to the Breastfeeding Network for advice on drugs and breastfeeding
  • call the Breastfeeding Network's drugs in breast milk helpline on 0844 412 4665

Your GP or pharmacist may like to look at the British National Formulary for Children (BNFC) to see what medicines can be given to babies and children, as these are likely to be safe for mothers to take when breastfeeding. 

Illegal drugs and breastfeeding

It's dangerous to take illegal drugs while you're breastfeeding. They can affect your ability to look after your baby safely, and reach your baby via your breast milk.

The long-term effects on babies if you use illegal drugs while breastfeeding aren't known. Talk to your midwife, health visitor or GP if you're using them. 

Page last reviewed: 29/01/2016

Next review due: 29/01/2018


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