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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 medicine you take may pass through your breast milk to your baby.

Generally, the amounts are very low and very few medicines are unsafe while you're breastfeeding.

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:

  • the painkiller paracetamol – you should check with a GP or your midwife before taking other types of painkillers, such as ibuprofen
  • most antibiotics
  • 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 a GP, your midwife, health visitor or a pharmacist, who can advise you.

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

Is there anything I cannot take while I'm breastfeeding?

Common medicines that are not recommended when you're breastfeeding include:

  • codeine
  • decongestants that come as tablets, liquids or powders that you swallow
  • some nasal decongestants that come as nose sprays or drops – check with a GP or pharmacist before using them
  • aspirin for pain relief
  • herbal remedies – not enough is known about herbal remedies to guarantee they're safe to use when breastfeeding

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

For more information:

Illegal drugs and breastfeeding

It's dangerous to take illegal drugs while you're breastfeeding or, indeed, at any time.

They can affect your ability to look after your baby safely and can be passed on to your baby through your breast milk.

It's important to talk to a midwife, health visitor or GP if you're using them.

Page last reviewed: 4 January 2019
Next review due: 4 January 2022