If you’re a new breastfeeding mom, you’ve probably heard a million different nuggets of information about what you should and shouldn’t eat, whether you can enjoy alcohol, and what medications you can take. And during cold and flu season, you might be asking if popping some over-the-counter cold medicine is okay, and how it affects your breastmilk.
Let’s get to it: Is it safe to take cold medicine when you’re breastfeeding?
Whether you’re reaching for Tylenol, Alka-Seltzer, cough drops, or any other common cold and flu medication, you probably don’t need to worry in most cases. “Over-the-counter cold medicines are generally safe for breastfeeding moms,” says Anna Graseck, MD, MSCI, an assistant professor of clinical obstetrics and gynecology at the University of Pennsylvania.
So when you need relief from symptoms like a hacking cough, sore throat, and stuffy nose, you absolutely can take cold medicines. Meaning: They won’t do anything to hurt the health of you or your baby.
However, you should know that some may have side effects that impact your breastfeeding ability.
Dr. Graseck says that medicines containing the decongestants pseudoephedrine or phenylephrine can impact your milk supply. “I tell my patients that anything that can dry out your nose can also dry out your milk,” Dr. Graseck says. For that reason, you’ll want to avoid medicines like Nyquil and Sudafed.
Dr. Graseck says that moms who are toward the end of their breastfeeding time (those who have babies older than nine months or babies who are breastfeeding only once in a while) are especially susceptible to having their milk dry up.
Still, if you just gotta have Nyquil to knock yourself out when you’re sick, there’s no way the medicine will affect your milk itself or pass any of the drug on to your baby. If you take some, there’s no need to pump and dump.
If your PCP tells you that you should pump and dump when you have a cold, Dr. Graseck suggests getting a second opinion from your ob-gyn. “Many doctors who don’t deal with breastfeeding will suggest dumping your milk when it’s not necessary, just to be safe,” she says. But there’s really no reason to get rid of good breastmilk.
In the end, it’s your decision whether the pros of cold medicine outweigh the potential cons of messing with your milk supply. Either way, your milk won’t be contaminated by the drugs, so there’s no need to stress about anything impacting your baby. And taking care of yourself is the best thing you can do to take care of your child.
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